THE BUSINESS OF LAW
Harding What motivates him and the use of technology as a game changer
Brookerâ€Ś Of the Legal Services Board on how world regulators are responding to legaltech
Night Glitz! Who won what at the Eclipse Proclaim Modern Law Conveyancing Awards 2019
Technology: the never-ending story One thing that fascinates me about the evolution of technology is not what’s current (and probably already bordering on obsolescence?) but what’s around the corner and the speed and often unpredictable directions it can take. The legal sector appears to be embracing technology, if not with fully open arms at least with a healthy acceptance – and some of today’s legal-tech is ground-breaking and will lead to slicker, smarter advances and greater efficiencies – but some will fall by the wayside, though we don’t always know, or can predict, which will be which. Prior to making my way into marcoms and ultimately to editing Modern Law, I spent 12 years in hi-tech. I started as a computer operator when mainframes lived in rooms the size of banqueting halls and had to be climate controlled beyond belief. Disc drives were like stacks of vinyl LP records, and circuit boards were the size of a 42” Smart TV screen, housed in cabinets that went on forever! At that moment in time though it was all
straight out of the future! Beyond sci-fi. And, yes, it did revolutionise commercial business practices like never before. Move on a few years to the 80s/90s when I career-switched into PR and advertising where, not surprisingly, I gravitated towards hi-tech clients. I wrote articles about how ISDN, packetswitching technology and the faster-than-fast gallium arsenide chip were going to radicalise working practices. We would all be able to work from home a few hours a week and enjoy way more leisure time than we’d know how to cope with! I often think about that tech prediction when struggling through commuter hordes worse than the Tokyo subway, to work more hours than there are in a day! ISDN probably managed 25 years in the limelight before broadband began to take it to the cleaners, and a quarter of a century is a hell of a long time in technology. But as the acceleration of tech is supposed to be exponential, what stage will AI and robotics be at in 25 years? Or will they have given way to some innovation we currently can’t imagine?
One thing is certain however, that progress happens and, although the result isn’t often the one we predicted, ultimately there will be enormous benefits to be enjoyed by the legal sector along the never-ending tech road. Until then, I hope you enjoy this issue of Modern Law and that it gives you some cause to ponder the future of legal tech. And if you have any feedback please don’t hesitate to contact me.
Pete Ward Editor, Modern Law Magazine. 01765 600909 firstname.lastname@example.org www.modernlawmagazine.com
Editorial Contributors Steve Brooker, Legal Services Board Adam Bullion, InfoTrack Andrew Burrows, JMC Legal Craig Campbell, tmconnect Martin Cheek, SmartSearch Charles Christian, Legal IT Insider Jonny Davey, Geodesys Richard Foulds, Focus Legal Solutions
ISSUE 44 ISSN 2050-5744
Jamie Halliday, bluebutton.co.uk Mark Holt, Frenkel Topping Samantha Jefferies, DocsCorp Norman Kenvyn, VFS Legal Funding Hugh Koch, Birmingham City University Jane Malcom, Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) Paul Saunders, Legal Eye Dave Seager, SIFA Professional
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Modern Law Magazine is published by Charlton Grant Ltd ©2019
Claire Smith, Head of Business Development, Moneypenny Theo Stratton, Unoccupied Direct Dr Matthew Terrel, Justis Michael Warren, Wilson Allen Alex Williams, Tikit
All material is copyrighted both written and illustrated. Reproduction in part or whole is strictly forbidden without the written permission of the publisher. All images and information is collated from extensive research and along with advertisements is published in good faith. Although the author and publisher have made every effort to ensure that the information in this publication was correct at press time, the author and publisher do not assume and hereby disclaim any liability to any party for any loss, damage, or disruption caused by errors or omissions, whether such errors or omissions result from negligence, accident, or any other cause.
Harvey Harding Modern Law caught up with Harvey Harding, Managing Director at PM Property Lawyers, to discover what motivates him in the business of law and his role in utilising technology as a game changer.
Sue McLean A Partner in the IT/Commercial Practice Group at Baker McKenzie, Sue McLean gives Modern Law her views on legal tech and gender diversity.
Marc Hardwick Modern Law spoke to TechMarketView’s Research Director, Marc Hardwick, about legal tech adoption.
IN-DEPTH KEY CONTRIBUTORS EDITORIAL BOARD
Stephen Mason Called to the Bar in 1988, Stephen Mason, a recognised authority on electronic signatures, shares his views with Modern Law on electronic evidence, e-disclosure and digital forensics.
Interest in challenge shows appetite for lawtech solutions Jane Malcom, Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA)
Resist, accommodate or facilitate? Learning from international responses to legal technology Steve Brooker, Legal Services Board
Is tech the demise of customer service? Adam Bullion, InfoTrack
Tech: early adopters vs ‘me too’ Martin Cheek, SmartSearch
Embracing tech to bring conveyancing up to speed Jonny Davey, Geodesys
Investing in legal tech – where to start? Norman Kenvyn, VFS Legal Funding
Digital integration Mark Holt, Frenkel Topping
Balancing personal touch with effective process Hugh Koch, Birmingham City University
EDITORIAL BOARD CONTRIBUTORS
AWARDS NIGHT TECH
Using AI to improve client service Michael Warren, Wilson Allen
An audit trail around third party referral Dave Seager, SIFA Professional
Home movers driving digital efficiencies Craig Campbell, tmconnect
Gaining first-mover tech advantage Dr Matthew Terrell, Justis
Will AI replace lawyers? Andrew Burrows, JMC Legal
Respect tradition but embrace digital Theo Stratton, Unoccupied Direct
The Eclipse Proclaim Modern Law Conveyancing Awards 2019
Should law firms look to get better value from technologies they already have, rather than focus on shiny new toys such as AI? Charles Christian, Legal IT Insider
Tech? Why Law firm management should be worried about human error! Samantha Jefferies, DocsCorp
Staying ahead of the curve Jamie Halliday, bluebutton.co.uk
The triumph of technology Alex Williams, Tikit
3E: Flexible and truly bespoke Richard Foulds, Focus Legal Solutions
Rise of the robot trainer? Paul Saunders, Legal Eye
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“Law is massively about data and largely rules based and therefore yes’s and no’s around law and rules can easily be translated into 0s and 1s”
Harvey Harding When you ask PM Property Lawyers’ MD Harvey Harding what motivates him in the business of law and his role in utilising technology as a game changer, his enthusiasm oozes out of every pore! And just how much he packs into his working life is testament to his passion for the legal profession, and legal tech in particular. Modern Law had to run to catch up with this busy man to discuss the many strands to his legal tech life. When it comes to his legal tech involvements, managing director of PM Property Lawyers, Harvey Harding, explains, “What we strive to do at PMPL is leverage and maximise technology in each of our business areas, so that we can focus heavily on customer care. When I joined PM Law in 2012 I wanted to create a different experience for those moving house. Communication with the client was simply not a priority and all too often they became frustrated by the process and the lack of information.” He adds, “We’ve now banned the word ‘client’ because the consumers of legal services, our customers, whether buying a house down the road or a business costing millions of pounds, are a lot savvier now about what’s available, what the costs are, and what they should be paying. The industry has changed dramatically and much of my time is spent looking at how we can best deploy the appropriate new technologies to provide the best possible customer service across our range of products.”
Originally a specialist department of PM Law, PMPL has grown to be a separate stand-alone business but remains part of the PM Group, so
customers can benefit from the crossovers within the group such as wills, trusts, and probate and property disputes. Harvey is delighted that PMPL pulled in two major awards at the recent Eclipse Proclaim Modern Law Conveyancing Awards (see Pages 41-47). He’s also proud of the fact that as a relatively young business, PMPL has grown from three people to over 70 in the seven years since it launched. He explains, “We achieved this by taking a fresh look and reinventing conveyancing around customer service and the customer journey, considering the pinch points, and the real problems that crop up around communications and delays. We also profiled our customers to determine how they interacted with us and discovered it was mostly via mobile devices, whether tablet or mobile phone. So we learnt that if we were to deploy our services more appropriately for our demographic it would need to be digitally.” PM Property Lawyers has progressed from being a traditional practice to one that now onboards all its clients electronically and, by partnering with other organisations, allows such innovations as facial recognition and electronic due diligence to be carried out by the customer. Harvey adds, “We’ve more than halved customer onboarding time by using this approach, plus there are a number of tools out there for customers to access electronically, making them feel more empowered and more knowledgeable about how the process should run, which eliminates delays and stress for the customer. And, let’s face it, moving house always has been a time of pressure, so anything than can make it less stressful is a win-win for both parties.” Harvey continues, “In conveyancing practice, the more information that can be made available, the quicker a customer can make a decision upfront. And that
has a positive influence on aspects such as reducing the fall-through rate on property transactions, and reducing the number of times mortgages might be declined – because now the information’s already there to make real decisions.” Harvey is a huge advocate of AI, machine learning and big data and the central role they’re playing in law, “Law is massively about data and is largely rules-based and therefore yes’s and no’s around law and rules can easily be translated into 0s and 1s. So the more a machine can learn, the more data it has, so the better it is at providing prompt and accurate information to lawyers. Additionally, it creates greater accessibility, taking away the heavy lifting and people can be more agile, and advice can be given quicker and better than before.” Harvey says, “I’ve always believed that it’s better to get in at the start with technology and evolve with it, rather than waiting to see what happens and play catch-up by reverse-engineering a system into a business. If you get the foundations and the culture right around the tech then it’s a really strong starting point to deploy legal services in a more productive and appropriate way.”
Hacking the legal tech myths
Another legal tech passion of Harvey’s is Sheffield Legal Hackers, the Sheffield Chapter of the global Legal Hackers movement of lawyers, policymakers, designers, technologists, and academics who explore and develop creative solutions to some of the most pressing issues at the intersection of law and technology. Harvey explains, “I became involved through a friend, Matt Pennington. Both from different backgrounds – mine legal, his software – we got together about 18 months ago to form Sheffield Legal Hackers. It’s a collaborative, collegiate
“I’ve always believed that it’s better to get in at the start with technology and evolve with it, rather than waiting to see what happens and play catch-up by reverse-engineering a system into a business” 8
“If you get the foundations and the culture right around the tech then it’s a really strong starting point to deploy legal services in a more productive and appropriate way” organisation that came from New York, with the intention of getting the sort of people who wouldn’t normally come together to meet and make progress through hackathons and workshops, to highlight issues and opportunities where technology can improve and inform the practice of law, and where law, legal practice and policy can adapt to rapidly changing technology.” Within the Sheffield team is a mix of people from law, IT, and academia and the group is always looking to expand, and is holding upcoming seminars on legal design, knowledge management, security standards and frameworks. Harvey says, “The idea is to provide an open and honest environment where everyone can approach technology without fear, and the intention is to show and convince law firms that there’s nothing about legal tech and change that they need be wary of.” Another string to Sheffield Legal Hackers’ bow is offering support to the local community through various charities – and one particularly close to Harvey’s heart is Roundabout, Sheffield’s local youth housing charity which provides shelter, support and life skills to young people aged 16-24 who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. Harvey says, “By supporting Roundabout through Sheffield Legal Hackers we’re able to help across a number of areas, not just by donating money but also, as we have access to people such as coders, IT directors and lawyers, we can collaborate to help the
Manchester – are some absolutely brilliant universities and tech companies, and we want to make sure they get as much time in the spotlight as the London outfits do. And it’s really important to invigorate technologists to ensure they can access the law, and that it’s not impenetrable to them, and there are legitimate business reasons to go into law and look to improve, invent, or that overused word disrupt, and achieve in the legal space. Basically, we want to inspire new technologists to come out and change things.”
charity make progressive changes.” When I ask if there’s any negative reaction to the word ‘hackers’, Harvey smiles, “Yes, there can be some confusion, as most people’s contact with the word comes from news about someone gaining illegal access to corporate, government or private data, but that actually gives us the opportunity, the ‘in’, to explain what we’re about. That our intention is to hack the myths around technology, rather than hacking into someone’s bank account. Having said that we have had fun trying to hack various people in the seminars to highlight how data security is a big issue, such as phishing and email intercept.”
And a third strand of Harvey’s legal tech involvement is as co-founder of Unconventional Legal, which organises legal events bringing together providers of legal services, lawyers, law tech start-ups and established legal tech providers, for unique events. He takes up the story, “This came about off the back of the Hackers movement, on the basis that lawyers, including me, are largely risk averse and, when
faced with new options in the legal space, the small ‘c’ conservative lawyer would probably shy away from new options unless there’s a clear path highlighted. But we wanted to run events with a difference so we took lawyers, technologists and academics and mashed them all together into something informal and a bit different.” Unconventional Legal events follow a format designed to get people actively involved in the subject matter by creating an informal environment of sharing and collaborating with their peers throughout the course of the day. The next event is the Legal Technology North Conference, at The Workstation in Sheffield on Thursday 3rd October 2019 – with an event theme of client-focused service delivery: https://unconventional.legal/.
It’s great up North
“But the big thing about all this is Yorkshire,” Harvey says. “London is portrayed as the centre of the known universe when it comes to everything! But what we have in Yorkshire, and particularly in Sheffield, in Leeds – and in the North generally with the likes of
In addition to these different ‘corporate’ strands to his life, Harvey is very much a family man who spends as much of his downtime as possible with his wife Tracy and 3 kids. He also squeezes in as many charity events as possible, including marathons, triathlons, jumping out of planes, swimming the Serpentine and climbing mountains. But if that wasn’t enough, once a year Harvey tries to put himself completely out of his comfort zone – none more so than playing Sheffield City Hall with a stand-up comedy routine. When I ask if stand-up is scarier than parachuting, his answer is, “Both as scary in different ways but my problem is, basically, I’m a show-off and I quite like being the centre of attention!” Long may Harvey remain at the centre of things in the business of law, legal tech – and beyond!
is Managing Director at PM Property Lawyers
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Sue M Lean c
Sue McLean has been included in the Women in FinTech Power List for three successive years, and is a member of the techUK working group on DLT/blockchain. She is also an active member of Baker Women and leads Baker Women in Tech, an initiative to encourage the development and promotion of women in the tech sector. In 2017, Sue won the Rising Star Award at the Variety Catherine Awards. Modern Law managed to grab an interview with her to get her views on gender equality and legal tech.
“As a junior lawyer, I didn’t really register the lack of gender diversity. I was just used to regularly being in rooms full of male colleagues and clients” 11
MLM: What was the route to your current role as a partner in Baker McKenzie’s IP/ Tech Practice Group? SMcL: Perhaps strangely (or, at least, people tell me so), I have always wanted to be a lawyer for as long as I can remember. I studied law at Leeds University and after law school in York, I completed my 2 year training contract at Pinsent Curtis (now Pinsent Masons). Although I didn’t have a background in tech, I loved my final seat in the IP/IT group and qualified as a lawyer in 2000 specialising in technology. On qualification, I moved to London and joined the IT & E-Commerce group of Tite & Lewis, which was EY’s tied law firm during the first wave of consultancy firms looking to disrupt the legal sector. Lawrence Graham (now Gowling) acquired Tite & Lewis in 2003 and I worked there for a number of years before joining Morrison & Foerster in 2006. I worked in MoFo’s Tech Transactions group for 11 years, latterly as Of Counsel. I then worked for eight years on a reduced hours schedule, while my three children were small.
“Tools for e-discovery, litigation support and due diligence have already had a material impact. But arguably it’s the rise of alternative legal service models that has highlighted to firms why they need to embrace technology”
I joined Baker McKenzie as a partner in 2017. I advise clients on a wide range of technology matters including outsourcing, digital transformation, tech procurement, cloud, AI, blockchain and privacy. My clients include some of the world’s best known companies, but also a range of interesting emerging companies.
This led to me setting up MoFo’s women’s network in London, to connect and support our female lawyers and business professionals. At the same time, I started to connect with and support other women’s networks, particularly those in the tech sector.
MLM: Is it true that female solicitors are above, at, or near, parity and proportionality at the lower levels of the profession, yet remain severely underrepresented at the higher ones?
SMcL: Yes, frustratingly, this is the case and
has been for a long time. Women make up over half of practising solicitors, but the profession remains led predominantly by men. This was emphasised in a recent study on gender equality carried out by the Law Society. With the exception of senior in-house counsel roles and a few posts in private practice, women lawyers still do not uniformly occupy leadership roles that match their qualifications and experience. The study also found that women from minority ethnic communities, or who have disabilities, face additional barriers in their careers. Bias, issues with remuneration and gender pay gap, and lack of access to flexible working, were identified as key obstacles. Based on where we are, it’s pretty clear that equality is not going to be achieved simply by the passing of time or by increasing the number of women in the profession. We need to continue to push hard to help drive change.
MLM: What (or who) first motivated you to focus on driving greater gender diversity in the legal tech sector? SMcL: Technology as a sector has always been (and remains) pretty male dominated and, historically, tech law has not been much better. As a junior lawyer, I didn’t really register the lack of gender diversity. I was just used to regularly being in rooms full of male colleagues and clients. It was only as I became more senior that I started to notice and find the lack of senior women around me frustrating. I was keen to do more to help make a difference for the next generation of lawyers – support more women to reach leadership positions, reduce the number of talented women leaving the profession and try to make it easier for mums to balance their careers with family responsibilities.
Following my arrival at Bakers in 2017, I joined our Baker Women steering committee in London and am partner sponsor for our internal network Baker G.E.N. I also founded the SCL Women in Tech law network in 2018 and earlier this year joined the Law Society’s Women Lawyers Division steering committee.
“Ultimately, we need to focus on identifying actual problems and challenges and identifying what innovation, process changes, or tools might help provide solutions” 12
At Bakers, we have been working hard to try to address the imbalance. Globally, we have more female partners than any other law firm and for the last three years our promotions to partner have been on average 40% women. However, we know that we need to do more and this year we announced our new ambitious global target to achieve a 40:40:20 gender diversity split, to represent 40% women, 40% men and 20% flexible (i.e. women, men and non-binary persons), by July 2025. MLM: Are there parallels in the fight to champion women in the legal and legal tech sector to those seeking equal opportunities for ethnic and LGBTQ+ minority groups? SMcL: Definitely! I believe strongly that diverse groups make for better teams and improved outcomes for our clients – you want to pull on all the talents available. All underrepresented groups need to be allies to each other and, as the Law Society report made clear, there
are additional challenges that face ethnic and LGBTQ+ women and other groups that I haven’t experienced as a white, straight, cis woman with no disabilities. MLM: When advising clients on the adoption of legal tech, which aspects are law firms most interested in compared to those that would best benefit their businesses? SMcL: In my experience, firms are interested in legal tech that can help us be competitive, i.e. reduce costs and improve our service offerings for clients. And although there are many promising legal tech solutions out there, it’s important not to get carried away by “shiny new tools”. Ultimately, we need to focus on identifying actual problems and challenges and identifying what innovation, process changes, or tools might help provide solutions.
“I believe strongly that diverse groups make for better teams and improved outcomes for our clients – you want to pull on all the talents available”
Many of the available lawtech solutions are not (yet) as effective as they need to be. Plus, there is a lot of useful innovation that can be implemented via process change and using existing tools. New tools should only be introduced where they add real value. And firms and clients can’t underestimate the significant investment (both in time and cost) that comes with deploying legal tech. MLM: In your experience, which type of legal tech disrupter has made the biggest business impact on law firms and why?
material impact. Contract automation tools are improving all the time. But arguably it’s the rise of alternative legal service models that has highlighted to firms why they need to embrace technology. Their use of technology-enabled services has helped drive adoption and is really pushing the traditional legal sector to accelerate its own digital transformation. MLM: And the future? Of all the current tech buzzwords/phrases (e.g. AI, big data, blockchain, e-discovery) which areas of legal tech do you see having the biggest impact? SMcL: Although there is a lot of hype around AI, I expect that solutions with enhanced machine learning capabilities will have the biggest impact on the sector long-term. They will help lawyers provide more data driven advice and pricing, introduce more effective automation and enable us to provide new products and services. Over recent years we have seen enhanced search and find solutions, task automation and presentation/delivery tools. But I expect the greatest disruption will occur when machine learning is properly baked into a firm’s legal knowledge tools, enabling us to bring more of the whole firm’s experience to a client matter, beyond the individual lawyer or team.
is a partner in the IT/Commercial Practice Group at Baker McKenzie
SMcL: Tools for e-discovery, litigation support and due diligence have already had a
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“Anyone in a white-collar job at the moment will eventually end up a co-worker of technology.”
Marc Hardwick Marc Hardwick’s background is in research, working primarily in and around the technology space. He came out of Uni in the late 90s interested in research but says he didn’t have the patience for academic research. Over 20+ years he’s built a career in commercial research and insight in a sales, business development and marketing environment, helping companies and organisations to understand where they should invest their money. Modern Law spoke to Marc about legal tech adoption. 15
spinning out of law firms and universities, and most of those technologies are answering one specific problem with one specific solution – we call them point solutions – and law firms often take this one offering to demonstrate to clients that they are an innovative outfit. Where the challenge lies is that from a tech point of view, the dots don’t always get joined up very well. The technologies come from different providers. So joining them up is absolutely the way to make progress but I simply don’t think it’s happening at the moment in anything like the way it should.
MLM: Give us a brief insight into Marc Hardwick and the route to your current role? MH: Prior to joining TechMarketView, I spent eight years heading up research activities for Capita, the leading business outsourcing company and technology enabled business services provider. Among other things I managed the relationships with different technology analyst houses, such as Ovum, Gartner, and TechMarketView where I now work as Research Director. My main specialism is in business process services but increasingly I’m now looking at automation technologies such as robotic process automation, and technologies that are effectively automating aspects of white collar jobs. TechMarketView is a small specialist boutique analyst house that focuses on the UK technology scene. We’re a small team of around a dozen. A mixture of career analysts and ex-industry people like myself. Our client base is a mixture of large and SME technology providers but also some end users and government bodies which subscribe to our published research. We also do bespoke work for clients on a range of aspects of technology and innovation. MLM: What led to you fronting LawTech work for the Law Society on tech adoption? MH: I first became involved with legal work through Optima, a law firm owned by Capita, when it was developing a legal process outsourcing business, operating out of Poland. However, it was TechMarketView’s work with FinTech that brought us to the attention of The Law Society. They had done a fair bit of research of their own, looking at awareness within their membership, but awareness wasn’t the major issue. Instead, the hypothesis the Law Society was working to was that the law was further behind other professional services, such as management consulting and financial services when it came to the technology adoption curve. And as we at TechMarketView were well versed in what was going on in areas such as FinTech, InsurTech and RegTech, the Law Society wanted us to bring our expertise and research methodologies to assess where law was in relation to adoption of disruptive technologies.
“Even in the most mature law firms where adoption is greatest, it’s still patchy, and you’re not seeing law firms adopting technology in the way the financial services sector did over the last decade”
Even in the most mature law firms where adoption is greatest, it’s still patchy, and you’re not seeing law firms adopting technology in the way the financial services sector did over the last decade. One reason for this patchiness within law firms is cultural. In financial services if the decision is taken to automate processes it’s seen as a positive way to improve efficiencies and the bottom line. Law, owing to the traditional nature of the business processes within firms, makes it psychologically more difficult to automate manual processes. The law firm partnership model can also hinder tech progress. For example, there are partners who are close to retirement. They’re primarily taking money out of the business and they’re being asked to take less money and invest for a return that will come further down the line that others will benefit from. Other barriers, specific to law, concern small firms where investment in new forms of technology is often a big ask. Also, different parts of the law sector are at different stages of maturity. Large law firms have been adopting AI technology for some time, but there is still a disconnect in terms of the expectations of law firms about what AI is going to do. There is a belief that you take this thing out of a box, plug it in and it’s going to transform things as if by magic. The reality is that it requires a lot of investment, not just financial, but a lot of time and effort and specialist training, and firms must commit to that to get the benefits further down the line. MLM: So, how big a part does training/ education play in legal tech adoption – and is there enough?
MLM: Does your research show that law firms believe they would benefit from connecting the technology dots?
MH: There are different aspects to training. One part requires lawyers to train up on the technology that replaces components of their job, and sometimes that can be difficult to train them away from what they’ve done for years, decades, longer! And because lawyers operate largely ‘on the clock’, another tricky aspect
MH: If you look at the LawTech market and the technologies that have been developed over the last few years, there has been a huge amount of start-up activity. Lots of tech companies are
to think about how they can future proof their career, so there is now pressure on the law schools to train lawyers to work in the new tech environment, because in five years’ time what they’re teaching now will be redundant.
around training is finding the time within their very busy schedules to shoehorn in non-billable training on new technologies and historically this has proved difficult. Consequently, legal technology has been based on some pretty old ‘clunky’ systems. Think of the old CRM systems. A pain in the backside to use and not very intuitive. Whereas the new technologies are extremely intuitive, often mobile-first, user-friendly, and negate the need to take large chunks out of their busy schedules. MLM: AI can learn and develop – but is it there to assist or replace? MH: This is not exclusive to law. Anyone in a white-collar job at the moment will eventually end up a co-worker of technology. Tech companies stress that they’re not replacing lawyers, but are augmenting them by taking away the boring, routine components of jobs that are a pain, leaving them to focus on more value added, intellectually stimulating aspects of their work. Personally, I look at automation technologies and AI deployed in lots of different industries and what I haven’t seen, genuinely, is where technology has come on board and loads of people have been made redundant. It just doesn’t work like that. MLM: Are the younger, emerging, techsavvy disrupters and providers into the law sector driving change? MH: From my research, a lot of tech companies are actually switched-on lawyers who are techsavvy but who became frustrated with particular problems within their firms, and either they had a friend who’s a technologist or they found a technologist, and together they developed a solution to a specific problem. A lot of the pressure for LawTech adoption is coming from inhouse lawyers/General Counsel – the clients of the big law firms. They want to see innovation from their law firms and crucially share in the (cost) benefits of new technology.
“Tech companies stress that they’re not replacing lawyers, but are augmenting them by taking away the boring, routine components of jobs that are a pain, leaving them to focus on more value added, intellectually stimulating aspects of their work”
There is also pressure coming from new lawyers, millennial lawyers, much more tech-savvy digital natives coming into the profession and thinking ‘this is archaic, what’s going on here, why are we still doing this stuff on paper, surely there’s a better way of doing it’ – and this creates the pressure to find a tech solution. There are people who are not yet at partner level, or are at partner level but want to be a senior partner and see this as a way of differentiating themselves and accelerating their own careers. And there are people in law schools right now who are starting
There are also new players coming into the law space. At one level there are the four big consultancies (PWC, Deloitte, EY and KPMG) whose audit businesses are under pressure and are all setting up legal practices. They have their licenses and are more au fait with strategic technologies than are law firms. Secondly, at the other end of the market there are technology companies offering almost DIY robo-solutions targeting the consumer market offering the public a cheap way of bypassing a law firm for basic services. But, High Street firms in comparison are almost in the dark ages and it wouldn’t surprise me if these are disrupted, not by the PWCs of this world but by the robo-solutions or consumer-based technology-led firms who approach matters in a more commoditised and technology-driven way. Basically, you have different parts of the legal sector being disrupted in different ways by different types of companies. And what’s going on in that consumer space is markedly different to what’s going on in the corporate world – with the High street still quite a long way behind what’s happening in the corporate space. But no way is tech adoption a doom and gloom scenario for lawyers and law firms. They won’t be automated out of existence but will have to learn to work differently. They must focus on those areas of law that require greater, softer skills and they should be using technology where it can provide a better outcome. And if that’s AI and e-discovery and a much more efficient use of resources then that’s fantastic for the sector.
is Research Director at TechMarketView LLP
â€œIt does not follow that evidence obtained via e-disclosure will be obtained in such a way that it is sufficiently robust to withstand cross-examinationâ€?
Electronic Evidence and Electronic Signatures Called to the Bar in 1988, Stephen Mason developed an interest in electronic signatures, authentication, security, electronic evidence, e-mail and internet use, interception and monitoring of communications, data protection and privacy towards the end of the twentieth-century. A number of books followed, including the practitioner texts in the panel on Page 21. 18
Why electronic signatures?
I began to realise electronic signatures were going to be important as the 1990s rapidly came to an end. A barrister whom I met once or twice (I will not mention their name for a reason that will become clear), was writing a special report on electronic signatures. The last time I met them, I asked how it was going, because I was looking forward to reading it. Unfortunately, they had their laptop stolen – and with it, the sole copy of their work. Suffice to say they decided not to replicate the text. It was then that I rashly decided to write a book on the topic. LexisNexis Butterworths accepted my proposal, and I wrote the text in three months and three weeks (three weeks longer than I anticipated), in the hot summer of 2003. It is probably sufficient to indicate my wife was not amused that she had to spend late July and August on her own in the garden, but on the day I knew I was finished, we booked a flight to Nice and spent four nights break over the late August bank holiday on the Côte d’Azur – it proved to be a holiday we have never forgotten – including a marvellous ‘book’ lunch we had in Le Bacon at Cap d’Antibes. Factors that led me to be interested in electronic evidence and electronic signatures I still recall the first time I connected my computer to the internet (I bought my first computer in 1988 to write up my dissertation to convert my Diploma in Law at City University to a Masters in Law), I immediately realised the enormity of what I did – that I connected an isolated device to the outside world, in effect, leading to the possibility that anybody with sufficient technical ability could break into my computer. This meant that everything I stored on the hard disk was vulnerable. This is why I contributed two chapters to the book edited by Nicola Webb, Internet Marketing Strategies for Law Firms (Law Society Publishing, 2003): ‘Electronic commerce’ and ‘Managing risk on the Internet’ (the second chapter with Charles Christian and Rupert Kendrick).
probably uses a different form of electronic signature several times every day – sometimes hundreds of times a day – and I get this information over in 30 seconds.
“Even the smallest firm or one person office must, as part of their professional duties, understand the risks involved with using technology”
I subsequently founded the international open source journal (now hosted by the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies) Digital Evidence and Electronic Signature Law Review (https:// journals.sas.ac.uk/index.php/deeslr), which has become an international focal point for judges, lawyers and researchers in the area.
Authentication of evidence in digital form Electronic evidence is not similar to evidence on paper. The criterion to authenticate electronic evidence is substantially different. The extent to which the services of a digital evidence professional will be required to support any litigation will depend on the complexity of the evidence to be authenticated, if it is necessary to authenticate the evidence. As readers will be aware, parties to legal proceedings accept the authenticity of evidence by procedural default in civil proceedings, and matters can be agreed between the prosecution and defence in criminal proceedings, depending on the nature of the defence. We deal with in depth in chapter 8 of Electronic Evidence. Allison Stanfield, the co-author of the chapter, completed her PhD on the topic, entitled ‘The Authentication of Electronic Evidence’. The reader might be interested to know that I initiated a Draft Convention on Electronic Evidence some years ago. It is published in the Digital Evidence and Electronic Signature Law Review: https://journals.sas.ac.uk/index.php/ deeslr/article/view/2321 E-disclosure and digital forensics Those reading this will be aware that there can be a difference between e-disclosure and digital forensics. It does not follow that evidence obtained via e-disclosure will be obtained in such a way that it is sufficiently robust to withstand cross-examination. However, those companies undertaking e-disclosure are well aware of the issues involved, and will invariably have procedures and processes in place to provide for the authenticity of the evidence. Generally speaking, the number of cases where the authentication of electronic evidence is at issue are rare. If you are not familiar with the topic, the text by Michael Wheater and Charles Raffin is a good start: Electronic Disclosure Law and Practice (Oxford University Press, 2017). An example of where the digital forensics was deficient (as well as the failure of the police and the Crown Prosecution Service to understand the evidence) can be found regarding the case of nurses who were prosecuted from the Princess of Wales Hospital in Bridgend, Wales. For a summary, see Electronic Evidence, 9.90 – 9.95. Professor Thimbleby updated and expanded on the article cited in this text: Harold Thimbleby, ‘Misunderstanding IT: Hospital cybersecurity
Electronic signatures are not difficult Every time I speak at an event with judges and lawyers, I am always astonished that no more than 15-20 per cent of the audience realise they use electronic signatures. I then proceed to demonstrate that everybody in the audience
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Applications are invited for this highly regarded post-graduate programme:
• two-year part-time, post-experience, multi-disciplinary programme for lawyers and construction professionals, now in its thirty-ﬁrst year, covering the law and its application to construction projects, practices, people and problems • four taught modules and a dissertation, including foundation modules on law for construction professionals or construction technology for lawyers • international, multi-disciplinary student cohort with strong alumni association • nine full days’ tuition each term in central London (three weekends of Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays) plus regular on-line tutorials • academic staﬀ led by Professor David Mosey, Professor Renato Nazzini and Professor Phillip Capper, supported by leading academics and practitioners • access to leading UK and international research and high-proﬁle Government and industry collaboration • specialist library resources and online facilities available to students • qualiﬁes for professional CPD and, with the additional award-writing examination, exemption from the CIArb Fellowship examination • next intake September 2019 – early applications are encouraged (ﬁrst application deadline 29 March). Applications will remain open if places are available and the programme will be closed as soon as it is full. Applicants must have a degree and/or acceptable professional qualifications plus, (for construction professionals and non-practising lawyers), at least two years’ relevant work experience; or (for practising lawyers), at least completed pupillage or one year of training contract. For further information on the Centre, or to download a copy of the prospectus, visit the Centre of Construction Law website: www.kcl.ac.uk/law/research/centres/construction/about.aspx, or contact Sue Hart on 020 7848 2643, email email@example.com. Details on how to apply can be found via the main KCL prospectus pages at: www.kcl.ac.uk/study/postgraduate/taught-courses/construction-law-and-dispute-resolution-msc.aspx MLM33 Kings College London Ad.indd 1
and IT problems reach the courts’ 15 Digital Evidence and Electronic Signature Law Review (2018) 11 – 32 https://journals.sas.ac.uk/ index.php/deeslr/article/view/4891. The Ruling was also subsequently published with the agreement of the trial judge: R v Cahill; R v Pugh 14 October 2014, Crown Court at Cardiff, T20141094 and T20141061 before HHJ Crowther QC, 14 Digital Evidence and Electronic Signature Law Review (2017) 67 – 71 https:// journals.sas.ac.uk/index.php/deeslr/article/ view/2541.
Technology brings risks – does embracing emerging tech improve risk mitigation?
Possibly. Even the smallest firm or one person office must, as part of their professional duties, understand the risks involved with using technology. As Bruce Schneier [https://www. schneier.com] often comments, it is not a matter of if you will have your files stolen, it is when. When this occurs, you have got to prove you took your duties seriously to avoid the full gamut of the possible consequences. A burning issue: electronic execution of documents Readers will be aware that the Law Commission initiated the Thirteenth Programme of Law Reform (Law Com No 377) in 2017. One of the projects under this programme is Electronic execution of documents. Consultation Paper Number 237 was published on 21 August 2018. I was invited to be a member of the Advisory Panel of experts (1.38). The Law Commission is shortly to finalize this work. The position on electronic signatures, set out in my text, is discussed by the Law Commission, as is the book by Lorna Brazell, Electronic Signatures and Identities: Law and Regulation (3rd edn, Sweet & Maxwell, 2018). Our books are complimentary – Lorna focuses on regulations and I focus on case law.
“The extent to which the services of a digital evidence professional will be required to support any litigation will depend on the complexity of the evidence to be authenticated, if it is necessary to authenticate the evidence”
the exception of a brief discussion of the conflicts of law) in previous editions of Paul Matthews and Hodge M. Malek, Disclosure and Stephen Mason, Electronic Signatures in Law (first edition in 2003) and the first three editions of Electronic Evidence (2007, 2010 and 2012). I prepared the content that was previously available in Electronic Evidence as an article that is freely available on Westlaw: Stephen Mason, ‘Documents signed or executed with electronic signatures in English law’,  34 Computer Law and Security Report Issue 4, 933-945. The Law Commission cite this article. Readers will have a clear summary of the legal position by reading the two notes and the article I wrote (kindly peer reviewed by Hodge M. Malek QC). © Stephen Mason, 2019
is a leading authority on electronic signatures and electronic evidence
PRACTITIONER TEXTS: Electronic Signatures in Law (4th edn, Institute of Advanced Legal Studies for the SAS Humanities Digital Library, School of Advanced Study, University of London, 2016), Open Access PDF version in the Humanities Digital Library at http://ials.sas.ac.uk/digital/ humanities-digital-library/observinglaw-ials-open-book-service-law/ electronic-signatures
The Law Society Company Law Committee and the City of London Law Company and Financial Law Committees have previously issued guidance regarding electronic signatures and evidence: • ‘Guidance on execution of documents at a virtual signing or closing’ (May 2009) [http:// www.citysolicitors.org.uk/attachments/ article/121/20100226-Advice-prepared-onguidance-on-execution-of-documents-ata-virtual-signing-or-closing.pdf]
Stephen Mason and Daniel Seng, editors, Electronic Evidence (4th edition, Institute of Advanced Legal Studies for the SAS Humanities Digital Library, School of Advanced Study, University of London, 2017), Open Access PDF version in the Humanities Digital Library at http://ials. sas.ac.uk/digital/humanities-digitallibrary/observing-law-ials-open-bookservice-law/electronic-evidence
• ‘Note on the execution of a document using an electronic signature’ (13 July 2016) [http:// www.linklaters.com/pdfs/mkt/london/E_ Signing_Guidance_Note.pdf] These replicate what was already available (with
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Interest in challenge shows appetite for lawtech solutions No-one can ignore the influence that technology has on 21st century life. Sometimes that influence can seem difficult to keep track of, writes Jane Malcolm We used to buy credits in a shop to use our mobile phones, but now use the phone to pay at the till when we go shopping.
egal services – itself a rapidly changing market – is not immune to this e-revolution, and the legal sector is already thinking about how to take advantage of the opportunities it offers. Technology can help firms to be more efficient, allowing solicitors to use their time effectively and speeding up complex tasks. But it can also improve customer service – for example, lots of conveyancing firms use secure portals to share documents and help their clients to track progress – and may change how legal services are provided to people who need them. We all know that survey after survey shows that the vast majority of people with a legal need do not seek help from a qualified solicitor. People think it’s difficult and expensive and that legal services are simply not for them. We have identified a number of ways to address this issue, not least by requiring firms, through our transparency rules, to give a better idea of what they can do and how much it might cost. We also work with firms through SRA Innovate, so that they can explore new ways of working without falling foul of our rules. But we know that more can be done and that technology might well be critical for enabling access to legal services. So we successfully applied for a Regulators’ Pioneer Fund grant to create the Legal Access Challenge. The challenge The fund was created by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to help regulators develop innovation-enabling approaches to emerging technologies. We were awarded £700,000 to develop our challenge, which has three aims:
• accelerating the development of products, services and platforms that will help individuals and smaller businesses understand and resolve their legal problems with greater ease • developing a community of people and organisations with a shared interest in implementing the use of technology to improve access to legal support who will share knowledge and ideas to improve customer outcomes in the legal services market • learning whether there are regulatory barriers to the development and adoption of mass market legal technology solutions and, if so, what adaptations to our approach might reduce these barriers We are running this in partnership with Nesta, a global innovation foundation, which uses challenge prizes to stimulate innovative solutions. So we offered £250,000 funding to accelerate the most promising new ideas that use technology to help more people access legal services when they need them. Throughout the summer, entries were sought from those that felt they had an idea worth developing. The deadline for applications has now closed. There was a huge amount of interest including from entrepreneurs, legal professionals, technologists, law schools and charities. This shows just how much enthusiasm there is to bring innovation to legal services for consumers and small businesses. What happens now? As far as the competition goes, our expert judging panel will now review the entries and select our first stage winners in due course. The panel is made up of our own
Chair of the SRA Board, Anna Bradley, and our General Counsel Juliet Oliver, as well as Karl Chapman (strategic Advisor, EY Riverview Law and non-executive director, Kim Technologies), Julie Bishop (director, Law Centres Network), Sidonie Kingsmill (customer director, HM Courts and Tribunal Service), Roger Smith (solicitor, academic and writer on legal technology), and Matthew Briggs (founder and former chief executive of the Law Superstore). The challenge is much more than just the competition. A core part of the eighteenmonth programme is to bring people together to help build new networks and opportunities for collaboration. The aim is to build a growing community of innovators seeking to use technology to widen access to legal services and to identify any barriers to their success. Eighty people have already joined a Legal Access Challenge group set up to achieve just this, while more than 500 people attended events in London, Birmingham and Leeds. We want the challenge to move things on and open up legal services. This is about much more than simply offering funding to those with good ideas. We know that innovators need support and networks to turn their ideas into reality, so we are creating those networks for them. It’s all part of building the momentum that will further encourage innovation in legal services. Watch this space!
is SRA Executive Director, External and Corporate Affairs
Resist, accommodate or facilitate? Learning from international responses to legal technology Steve Brooker, considers the findings of a research paper by legal services consultant Alison Hook on how regulators around the world are responding to the rise of legaltech.
n 5-6 September, legal services regulators from across the world gathered for their annual conference in Edinburgh, an invaluable opportunity to share experiences, debate issues and forge partnerships. It was also a chance to engage in a little regulatory diplomacy. Depending on who you speak to, the regulatory model in England and Wales is viewed overseas with envy, curiosity and suspicion. Most professions elsewhere remain selfregulating and firmly want to stay that way. But, for some, perhaps worse than the prospect of regulation being conducted by lay people, is the thought of allowing law firms to be owned by non-lawyers, as alternative business structures permit. Having attended a number of these conferences, I find it striking how attitudes towards the England and Wales model have softened over the years. Lately, a number of jurisdictions have introduced models inspired in part by the Legal Services Act. These feature independent regulatory authorities or at least greater separation between regulatory and representative functions. And, on one count, by mid-2017, 15 jurisdictions around the world permitted some degree of non-lawyer ownership. The California Bar is the latest to re-examine this issue as part of a task force identifying regulatory changes that could help improve access to legal services through technological innovation. Greater alignment with our regulatory model is helpful. It enhances the leadership role of this jurisdiction; it confirms that we are forward looking and it makes it easier to sell our world-class legal services overseas. Another feature of these conferences is that jurisdictions are grappling with similar challenges. Increasingly, these challenges cross international borders. One example is technology, and with this in mind the LSB asked Alison Hook – a leading
commentator on international legal services issues – to write a paper on the adoption of technology in key jurisdictions and how regulators are responding. In her paper Alison suggests legal regulators around the world have tended to take one of four approaches in response to the rise of legaltech: • “Wait and See”: For most, working with heavy workloads, limited resources and pressing immediate issues, the challenge of technology is not a priority. • Resist: Some regulators have sought to resist the emergence and use of certain forms of technology in their jurisdictions. For example, by prohibiting lawyers from participating in online marketplaces for legal services, or by seeking regulatory means to prevent non-lawyer disruptors from entering the market. • Accommodate: A third approach has been to seek ways of accommodating legaltech into existing rules by modifying the status quo. • Facilitate: Finally, a few regulators have sought to facilitate legaltech and enabled new entrants to challenge and change the regulatory landscape more profoundly. Alison points out a potential relationship between the overall regulatory framework and how regulators respond to technological developments. For example, jurisdictions in which there is a blanket prohibition on unqualified individuals providing legal advice have a harder time accommodating legal technology into their thinking. And those organisations which have a mixed regulatory/representative role are often approaching this as an issue of maintaining incumbent competitiveness against new entrants. England and Wales falls into category four: Facilitate. I think that is something of which we can all be proud. The foundations for this – in particular a liberalised regulatory
framework – were laid a number of years ago, and this has meant that the England and Wales jurisdiction is more future-ready than it otherwise might have been. Against this backdrop, initiatives such as SRA’s Innovation Space (a type of regulatory sandbox) and the SRA/NESTA Legal Access Challenge (a prize fund for technology-driven legal solutions that will help individuals and small businesses better understand, prevent or resolve their legal problems), are examples of regulation creating the right conditions in which technological innovation can thrive. This sort of regulatory leadership, alongside government initiatives such as the LawTech Delivery Panel, will help enable our legal services sector to maintain its competitive advantage in future. If we are to be at the forefront of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, it is also essential that regulators successfully manage the risks by putting the right safeguards in place. In the LSB’s own research, law firms cite lack of knowledge, the unproven risks of technology and ethical concerns as key factors holding back their wider adoption of technology. As oversight regulator, our role is to help foster a regulatory climate that supports innovation with the aim of increasing access to legal services while maintaining high standards. In going about this work we know that innovation and ethics must go hand in hand. Alison’s paper and accompanying podcast are available on the LSB’s website. https:// www.legalservicesboard.org.uk/our-work/ current-work/technology-and-regulation. Over the next six months, the LSB will publish more papers by different experts examining other areas of legaltech. The LSB will then respond to the issues and debates raised by the papers upon conclusion of the project in early 2020.
is the Legal Services Board’s (LSB) Head of Policy Development and Research
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is MD at SmartSearch
Is tech the demise of Tech: early customer service? adopters vs ‘me too’ Technology has become synonymous with modern living. We’re regularly reminded of the impacts of our screen time; analogue phone networks are obsolete and managing your diary, banking and shopping anywhere but online or via an app feels a little reminiscent of 90’s-themed déjà vu. So, with the rise of tech a driving force of innovation in industries from finance to travel, are we placing too much dependence on it?
There is a bit of debate when it comes to tech innovation in terms of when it is most advantageous to join the party. Is it best to be a first mover, first follower or late follower - does it even matter? Well, there are certainly advantages and disadvantages of each, and it also depends on whether you are the innovator or the adopter. This enables them to do well in terms of building up customers and profit because they are largely uncontested.
There’s no doubt the digital age has disrupted traditional markets to provide a customer-led environment, but technology isn’t the only foundation required for a stable business. A personal approach to customer relations is essential every step of the journey to nurture success. A Walker study identified that by 2020 customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator.
In terms of adopters, particularly when it comes to terms of RegTech and compliance, those first-movers will undoubtedly gain a lead over the competition. There is so much red tape that any solution that speeds up the process will create an advantage. However, it will only remain beneficial if the technology adopted keeps pace.
People value the expertise of legal professionals, but they also value their experience. Maintaining a healthy balance between the two is key to solidifying your firm as a relevant business. Technology is the facilitator that will support you in nurturing client expectations, aiding modern professionalism, and will give you the ability to provide a personalised touch where required. How many times have you had to sit through multiple selections on the phone before reaching a real person? People still want to talk to people, it’s just how that is managed that has changed. Understanding the benefits that can be reaped from technology that enhances client experience will be monumental.
For example, every time there is a change in compliance and money laundering regulations, our platform is upgraded to incorporate that change. If a client has a good idea for an improvement, we will modify the platform and that change will benefit all clients, automatically, at our cost. Our clients will never have to change platform provider to ensure they are still meeting the ever-changing AML regulations, but that is not the same with all AML providers whose systems need to be replaced every time there is a change. Therefore, legacy is an issue for many first-movers who are left behind when followers introduce technology that is that little bit more advanced.
Primark are the perfect example. While many high street businesses are struggling to stay relevant, they have tapped into the market by harnessing the power of customer experience. Primark have managed to convert their customers into influencers, by installing a “snap-and-share” room in their flagship Birmingham store, along with a café and nail bar. These features add value to the customer experience which has seen them flourish in a market when their competitors are trying to keep afloat as momentary businesses.
Therefore, it is not just about being first but offering something new. First will always have a certain advantage, but if you’re following late, as long as you have a strong differentiator, you’ll be noticed.
“Innovators who are first to market will always gain a certain advantage because they tend to capture market share fairly easily with no major competition around”
By implementing technology into the elements of your business it can benefit from reduced administration; automation and where it will aid in meeting client expectations will provide the gateway to improved personalised service. Meeting client expectations in the digital age isn’t purely about tech, instead it is about seizing the opportunity to utilise it as part of a wider strategy in your approach to offering great customer experiences.
“Technology is the facilitator that will support you in nurturing client expectations, aiding modern professionalism, and will give you the ability to provide a personalised touch where required”
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is Product Manager at Geodesys
is Founder & CEO of VFS Legal Funding
Investing in legal tech – where to start?
Embracing tech to bring conveyancing up to speed Conveyancing has a reputation for being the slowest link in the homebuying chain, much to the frustration of buyers and sellers. With increasing digital transformation of the legal sector, should property and conveyancing teams embrace technology?
The creep of the Big Four into the legal sector has not gone unnoticed amongst the profession and Deloitte’s recent announcement that it is placing technology at the heart of its legal services offering with a number of high-profile hires is certain to make law firms sit up and take note.
The Ministry of Justice has announced plans to support the wider implementation of technology across the legal sector with a £2 million funding commitment. An earlier report by the Law Society into the adoption of LawTech across the sector identified that the business-to-consumer (B2C) legal market is trailing behind business-to-business (B2B) firms. Therefore, law firms may be missing out on the economic benefits it brings.
Speaking about these hires, Michael Castle, Deloitte’s UK managing partner, said: “The clients often tell us that the legal services market is currently not meeting their needs in the innovation and technology space.” There is no denying that in the past five years, technology has rapidly become one of the most vital investments a law firm can make, with most businesses alive to the benefits and efficiencies technology can bring.
Whilst conveyancing is one of the first areas where B2C legal services appear to be embracing LawTech, there are several barriers to its wider adoption. From the cost of acquisition, partnership models and implementation of new systems, to the impact of change and the willingness and ability of staff to use new systems, smaller firms are finding it harder to get on board.
However, take-up of these developments has been sluggish across many law firms and as such, they risk being left in the dark. But it is so difficult for many firms, especially those operating in the litigation space to properly manage their cash flow on a day-to-day basis, meaning a huge, ongoing investment like technology is tricky. Often, innovations such as artificial intelligence and cloud-based platforms need constant investment as the technology evolves, and the lawyers must be trained how to properly utilise these tools and platforms so they’re achieving the right efficiencies. So how do firms free up their cash flow to ensure they can invest in the technology they need and steal a march on their competitors?
Practical challenges notwithstanding, it’s clear that embracing new technology can generate significant efficiencies including the quality of data and enhancing the homebuyer’s experience. The average property purchase takes 16 weeks between offer and completion, so the introduction of basic digital processes can speed this up significantly. Whether that’s through online provision of conveyancing and property searches or chatbots to answer the most frequent customer queries, there are multiple points at which technology can streamline the process. Cloud computing platforms can increase transparency of the process, including partial automation of case management, with the use of verified e-signatures slashing time lost to the postal system.
This is where we are seeing legal funding really come into its own. For example, our product, the Costs Advance facility, can be the perfect solution to free up working capital, which can then be used to invest in technology. This facility works when a case has been won and a draft bill of costs has been issued – in this situation, the law firm’s funds are tied up in ongoing costs negotiations but the facility immediately releases the cash. This not only increases the firm’s liquidity, but also gives the lawyers involved in the case the gift of time, as well as the financial muscle, to negotiate a better settlement and not a compromise. And it’s not just suitable for large firms - VFS Legal Funding has provided around £100m in seven years to 60 law firms with turnovers ranging from £500k though to in excess of £50million.
Meanwhile, HM Land Registry is continuing its two-year initiative to transform conveyancing by improving four key stages of the process – provision of better upfront property information, secure identity verification, instant lending decisions and digitised exchange of contracts. The Local Land Charges Register celebrated its first anniversary in July, with thousands of homebuyers in active areas benefiting from the instant access it has provided to essential property information. The digital ‘Sign your mortgage deed’ service (for re-mortgages only) has also passed its first birthday and is now being rolled out at a few major high street lenders.
Technology is a great leveller in the legal profession and clients expect their lawyers to be utilising these technologies no matter what their size. It’s here that legal funding can really help give firms a boost over their competitors – essential as the legal market continues to evolve at breakneck speed.
There is undoubtedly appetite amongst consumers for improvements in the conveyancing process. The support of both the Ministry of Justice and HM Land Registry is vital, but the legal sector must also adapt to keep pace. While some are more likely to be the innovators and early adopters of next generation technology, legal professionals who are less responsive to adapting may find they miss out on continued commercial success and will be left behind.
“There is no denying that in the past five years, technology has rapidly become one of the most vital investments a law firm can make, with most businesses alive to the benefits and efficiencies technology can bring”
Geodesys is part of Anglian Water and a leading provider of conveyancing searches for residential and commercial properties throughout England and Wales.
The Legal Eye Academy – an online training platform covering core risk and compliance topics Is it a struggle to find time for training? Ensuring that all fee earners and staff are up-to-date with the latest risks affecting your business – and that they know what to do to defend against them – is essential to protecting your business and to ensuring compliance with the latest regulatory requirements. But how often are training sessions missed because of pressures of work? Or are simply not set up at all due to the logistical difficulties of coordinating diaries, finding a room, booking the right trainer?
The Academy is an online training platform that makes it easy to stay up-to-date. Your staff can log on at any time and complete a series of modules that cover each core compliance topic. Staff are required to complete a quiz at the end of each module which ensures that those taking the courses have understood the content. It’s a practical, cost effective solution to ensuring staff are up-to-date with risk training that’s quick and easy to set up and to use.
Contact us on 0203 051 2049 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to request a demonstration
is Professor in Law and Psychology at Birmingham City University
is Managing Director of Frenkel Topping
Balancing personal touch with effective process
Mark Holt shares his views on the benefits that process automation can deliver, while keeping a vital human touch. We’re all well aware of the benefits of business automation, but in the realm of personal injury and clinical negligence claims, dealing with people as individuals and maintaining the human side of every contact remains vitally important. Marrying process efficiencies with the very human experience needed in all aspects of law, especially dealing with complex court cases, is a challenge for our industry. In personal injury law, matters are often complex, involve a number of different parties and must take into account the specific circumstances of each individual, which will be different in every case. We firmly believe that in the work we do, with people who have suffered life-changing injury, it’s all about good communication and building strong relationships. Efficient communication through technology This is where technology can help. Our long experience shows that collaboration and open communication are key to delivering the best possible outcome in every case. On a personal level, we welcome the developments in augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) and assistive technology that allow us to communicate with those who have lost the ability to verbalise their own thoughts and feelings. From a commercial point of view, systems integration between the legal and advisory parties involved cuts administration time, delivering a seamless process and allowing complete visibility of all transactions. This level of transparency is increasingly sought by legal teams to streamline communication, remove delays and help bring the process to conclusion. Digital integration At Frenkel Topping, we have invested heavily in consolidating operating systems and implementing a single cloud-based specialist customer relationship management (CRM) system to the benefit of all parties. We’re also working on a platform solution that will link directly to our in-house fund management provision and reduce charges for our clients. We’re constantly looking at new ways to share information and insights with our investors, introducers and clients and further digitalisation of the business is one of the strategic objectives identified within our five-year plan. Accessibility in a familiar format It’s key to remember that the claimant and their family have in most cases been thrown into an unfamiliar environment, having to face the unfamiliar territory of solicitors, court cases and complicated legal situations. Familiar app-based technology can help demystify the process of navigating a personal injury claim by providing relevant and topical information, updates and advice. Speeding up transactional activity Nothing can ever replace human, face-to-face contact, but anything that can speed up transactional or process-driven activity to free up a consultant’s time for more value-added activity benefits not only the claimant, but also their legal team and the consultant too.
As we approach the third decade of the 21st Century, we are challenged to make sure we have a positive work culture, are forward thinking professionals and have the right tools for the job. Take four legal contexts: the law firm, the Barristers’ Chambers, the gathering of reliable expert evidence and the court system. In all these contexts, we need to utilise technology and associated quality processes while, at the same time, ensuring the appropriate personal ‘customer’ touch in our various interpersonal dealings. Workload increases in the courts without increases in resources can result in a backlog of cases waiting to be heard – additional recruitment needs to be balanced by court modernisation, especially in I.T/I.M to enable digitisation and its easy accessibility. This facilitates the management of vast amounts of data, including witness statements, court logs and judge summaries. These court processes are amenable to straightforward process analysis and continuous process improvement, and at the same time providing personalised service. The gathering of expert evidence, typically medical, is also a ‘suitable case for treatment’ in terms of how similar types of disorder or symptom clusters can be assessed using written, structured interviewing techniques and claimant-generated self-report, counter-balanced by legible and organised, contemporaneous medical records. The ideographic (individual) and nomothetic (group, aggregated) nature of evidence needs careful balancing by expert, barrister and judge when achieving an impartial opinion in an efficient manner which reflects a high-quality process. Technology and process-driven activity needs integration into case management in all four contexts – the courts, the expert evidence gathering, the law firm, and Barristers’ Chambers. Flexible working, including mobile ‘hot desking’ means that lawyers, barristers and experts can work on the move and have all the real-time information they need at their fingertips with security and simple storage. The main tools a ‘happy team’ needs are to be valued and have their ideas to innovate, either as individuals or in teams, recognised – let a small number of staff develop ‘continuous quality improvement’ ideas, and encourage corrective action – whether this be in the areas of standards, processes, customer excellence or staff satisfaction. Allocating regular time to this actually pays off on the ‘shop floor’, and attracts dynamic young talent. All this makes a more attractive proposition for those seeking legal services with a ‘personal touch’, providing an edge over surrounding competition by showing an increased understanding and use of technological integration and digitisation – this will be evident by a more transparent and effective form of communication, ‘bias for action’ and ability to also be a ‘personal’ professional.
“Flexible working, including mobile ‘hot desking’ means that lawyers, barristers and experts can work on the move and have all the real-time information they need at their fingertips with security and simple storage”
Good communication is key, and technology is the most valuable support tool that will, ultimately, help deliver the best outcomes.
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is VP, CRM Practice, at Wilson Allen
Using AI to improve client service Artificial intelligence is gaining traction in the legal sector to automate basic repetitive tasks. But how can your firm apply this technology to improve client service? AI has the potential to help forward-thinking firms with three very important aspects of operations: relationships, revenue, and cost reduction. Here’s how: 1. Build Relationships AI has the power to free up time so your professionals can cultivate better client relationships. It can also provide professionals with more insightful data at the right time and in the right context. For example, AI can be used to capture how each person interacts with client data and typically what data they need in specific scenarios, such as when going to a client meeting and automatically providing the information needed to enable the delivery of better service. 2. Drive Revenue AI can be used to segment data more effectively to identify crossselling opportunities and drive revenue generation. A senior partner at a firm told me of the huge success they had in winning client work by identifying their best clients, finding more like them, and then trawling all internal content (emails, documents, systems) to identify
where they already had connections to the best potential targets. They closed five out of five of their top five clients. 3. Reduce Costs Rather than have lawyers spend valuable time reviewing and marking up certain legal documents, AI algorithms can be applied to automate and take cost out of this task. AI can also be applied to assess the specific risk position of a given professional based on their previous approach to marking up contracts and documents. All of these areas of impact are related. For example, if you review any client feedback survey of why clients choose their legal advisors, technical understanding of the law and ability to review contracts rank well outside the top ten. But sharing information with colleagues, understanding the client’s business, and always being prepared rank very highly. This is where AI and data mining can help, freeing professionals from administrative processes so they can spend time developing relationships as a trusted advisor. If you think all of these capabilities are a long way away, you’d be mistaken. That’s why it’s essential that firms break down the silos that exist between data sources. Only then can you fully access, understand, and enhance each phase of the client engagement life cycle.
“Rather than have lawyers spend valuable time reviewing and marking up certain legal documents, AI algorithms can be applied to automate and take cost out of this task”
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Other Complex Cases
is Managing Director at SIFA Professional
is Product Director at tmconnect
An audit trail around third party referral
Home movers driving digital efficiencies
There is no doubt that solicitors are increasingly aware of the need to be referring clients to highly qualified financial planners. Legal advice should frequently go hand in hand with financial planning advice and customers are increasingly expecting more holistic advice and a joined up approach to problem solving.
‘Customer journey’ and ‘consumer portal’ are two of the biggest buzzwords in the residential property industry. Home movers are driving a trend that should help law firms improve productivity and provide a better consumer experience, resulting in more repeat instructions. Why hasn’t the conveyancing process evolved? 22 years after the introduction, in the UK, of the first online banking service, consumers are used to having the ability to undertake and monitor financial transactions online, 24/7.
In the new SRA regime and indeed the present one, solicitors are required to demonstrate why they believe a referral to a third party is in that client’s best interests and as a very minimum, they should be recording that they have recommended that the client needs to seek complimentary financial advice.
But what about the property transaction? For many law firms, conveyancing is the entry level service for the consumer. Managed well it represents a great opportunity to up-sell and enhance the return from a client. However, the challenges associated with re-engineering an often low margin process, securing internal buy-in for change and aligning innovation with regulatory requirements has historically meant that many law firms have struggled to justify the often complex and expensive process of adopting technology that makes a tangible difference to the consumer experience.
However, client referrals to financial planners are often haphazard. They can take the form of e-mail, letter or telephone call and there is, at least at present, often no consistent practice within referring firms and no regulatory audit trail, which increases the risk of culpability for inappropriate advice. Of course, with the advent of the new Firm ‘Code of Conduct’ this will have to change with the regulator expecting far more structure to be put in place by the firm COLP and management to ensure that individuals within the firm retain professional high standards and remain compliant.
A simple solution The emergence of ‘off the shelf’ consumer portals, like that provided by tmconnect, is making it easier for law firms to rapidly adopt platforms that have a positive impact on the consumer – and also enhance efficiency, freeing up conveyancers to offer valued advice rather than dealing with a myriad of low level tasks that can be managed via a portal, which provides consumers with meaningful updates on their transaction.
Where there is a financial interest, or if the solicitor practice is referring to a ‘Separate’ business, (financially connected,) the SRA insist that the client’s consent be documented. However, in recent presentations from the regulator, including at a recent SIFA Professional conference in June, they are suggesting that best practice would be that the solicitor has recorded the client’s approval, even when the referral is being made to an unconnected third party, particularly where the client may be vulnerable or where there is data likely to be transferred.
Well-designed portals also provide a secure environment for the completion of documents and key stages in the conveyancing process from Anti-Money Laundering checks through to search ordering.
It is in these times of increased onus on regulatory systems and structured process that technology can be the solicitor and financial planning partners ally. There are now superb and extremely secure systems and portals that can not only assist solicitors to make compliant introductions to financial planning partners, or other third parties, selected by the firm’s management but also to allow private communication between the two professionals or firms. Such systems can be personalised for the relationship to incorporate referral templates, client consent letters and other pertinent documents.
The drive for change does not end with a consumer portal Those reading this article will be all too aware of the fact that residential property transactions in England and Wales don’t work as efficiently as they should. Consumer portals won’t, in isolation, mend a broken process, which is why we’re proactively working with all the key stakeholders in the property transaction to lobby for change and to help property professionals align a myriad of solutions and systems to provide a better consumer experience. We are encouraged by the output from the Home Buyers and Sellers Group and we are actively working on initiatives that improve the collection and distribution of data at both the start of and throughout a transaction. However, we do see regulation and the challenges of aligning the systems of multiple parties as a barrier to delivering really meaningful improvements, particularly in areas such as Anti-Money Laundering.
There can therefore be a built-in audit trail for the solicitor firm to use, when they receive the signed client consent letters. Indeed, all client introductions, letters and client notes can be stored in one place. A place, which can be accessed online with a secure username and password. The fabulous news for solicitors is that financial planning firms they work with may have access to the technology, be paying for it and then able to offer access to the legal firms they work with at no charge.
There is and will continue to be a real need for all those involved in delivering and regulating property transactions to work together to deliver a truly streamlined process which allows property professionals to provide valuable and meaningful advice to those who need it most.
You can contact SIFA Professional or find about more about us via our website: https://www.sifaprofessional.co.uk/ or about our Law Society endorsed Directory of Financial planning professionals here: https://www.sifa-directory.info/
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is Head of Marketing at Justis
Gaining first-mover tech advantage Do early adopters of legal tech innovation gain first-mover advantage over their competitors? Yes, and here’s why… Motivations for leading change or adopting new technology early can stem from different places within a firm, and for different reasons. However, one effective way to benefit from the adoption of new technology is grounded in the rationale for the need for change. Specifically, paying attention to the needs of your staff and clients can give firms a first-mover advantage when adopting, or developing, new legal technology. If we take a quick journey back to the 1970s to introduce Harvard and MIT graduate Eric von Hippel, and his research on understanding the commercial success of different products and services we can follow his research forward to the present day. The research in question identified that successful products, or those that offered significantly improved functionality, were in fact created by the end-users of the products and not manufacturers, and many became highly successful commercial ventures. What initiated this drive for change, or adoption of a new solution, were the needs of users which were unmet by current market offerings.
When looking at the legal technology sector, firms can draw information about unmet needs from this two-sided market – from their staff and clients. However, before anyone rushes to organise a focus group, the research surrounding consumer-led innovation specifies the type of consumers that will provide the most valuable information, defined by their knowledge about the products and processes in question, technical ability and more. So yes, it is possible to get a first-mover advantage from adoption, or creation, of new technology. But firms need to be paying attention to who is expressing these needs and invest time in understanding more about consumer-led innovation as this will unlock a new world of possibilities and potential. At Justis and vLex, this forward-thinking perspective has been applied for many years. Where we strive to create something new, innovative or solve a real-life problem, we listen to those unmet needs of our customers and even internal staff. vLex’s Iceberg platform is a perfect example; developed to solve a problem no current systems could, which has resulted in a highly intelligent, customisable AI-powered product for the legal industry and publishing sectors unlike anything else available on the open market.
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is a Business Development Executive at Unoccupied Direct
is Recruitment Consultant at JMC Legal
Will AI replace Respect tradition but embrace digital lawyers? AI is an exceptional tool that is really starting to make waves across numerous industries on a global level. This includes self-driving cars, smart personal assistants (‘Siri’, etc.), sales and business forecasting, security surveillance, online customer support, etc. But, how is AI affecting the legal sector, and will it replace lawyers?
It can seem a bit daunting at first, to keep up with new and up and coming ways, especially if your practice or company has been around for a while. Keep up with a digital world Technological change has become an inevitable reality, and, as such, keeping up with new developments should be a priority. Do you have any archaic systems or websites that could be improved or upgraded? Or perhaps your workflow could simply be made smoother and more transparent with better project management systems and a well-organised back office.
AI is very useful in automated time recording software, which can save time by generating automatic invoices. If extrapolated across finance departments, it is easy to envisage a world where accountants, payroll administrators, etc., would be rendered redundant. This potentially bears ill for support/accounts staff in law firms. Furthermore, AI is currently being used to read and write contracts and to check for missing clauses. It is easy to imagine that in the future we will not need Paralegals, document reviewers, or maybe even lawyers for contract work.
Respect for the older ways Inevitably, there will be some clients who simply prefer to receive their documents or correspondence by post instead of digitally, such as by email. Having some of your necessary items, such as policy wordings in the case of insurance companies, or letterheaded paper and other key pieces of literature relevant to your field of practice, printed and on hand ready to go, will likely save delays when you do get those requests.
‘Lex Machina’ is a tool that enables lawyers to form case strategies based on previous outcomes from similar cases, and with this tool it is possible for law firms to accurately and easily win cases, close business deals and strategise effectively and efficiently. However, on the flip side, this technology is based on analytics and so is not completely self-sufficient (yet), and there are compelling arguments that human interaction is not just beneficial, but essential, in closing deals, winning cases and to successfully business develop. Humans can sympathise, empathise and interact in a way that machines cannot.
Market to the right clients Particularly in the insurance sector, companies need to make sure they’re getting their products in front of the right people, in order to provide the best quality cover for those who need it most. Similarly, for solicitors working in a specific field, getting their services across to their target client market means their services are fully accessible and puts them in a position to reach those who could make best use of them.
‘Robot Lawyers’ and chatbots are another example of AI. Chatbots can provide basic legal assistance and advice autonomously. ‘Robot lawyers’ have achieved better results than lawyers in the past, especially in volume based legal fields such as PPI or Conveyancing. Both tools could render lawyers and support staff obsolete.
Hire a good team Hiring the right people is a key aspect of making sure your company continues to function as best as it can, and is a relevant point no matter how old or new your company is. Keeping your staff motivated, up to date with training requirements, and giving them the tools needed to do their jobs, will ensure that your staff work well together and your business continues to move forward.
However, it is very unlikely that AI will replace lawyers any time soon. From the cost of implementing and running AI, to the time it will take for AI to become widespread and effective enough to completely replace lawyers, to the fact that human interaction is much more likely to win new business, talk to a client and successfully argue in front of a judge, it is unlikely that lawyers are in any immediate danger.
As a relatively new company, but developed by its parent company with over 20 years of experience in the sector, Unoccupied Direct combines the best of industry-specific knowledge, yet retains a 21st century approach to its business ethos.
“Technological change has become an inevitable reality, and, as such, keeping up with new developments should be a priority”
Whether or not Paralegals and junior members of staff in the legal field will be affected is much more of a realistic concern. And as for the future, who can tell what further disruption AI will bring to legal jobs?
“Robot lawyers’ have achieved better results than lawyers in the past, especially in volume based legal fields such as PPI or Conveyancing” 39
THE ECLIPSE PROCLAIM MODERN LAW CONVENYACING AWARDS 2019 When it comes to it, Modern Law certainly knows how to throw a party. And what a night it was at the Eclipse Proclaim Modern Law Conveyancing Awards 2019, held on the 18th July 2019 at the splendid The Rum Warehouse in Liverpool, where no one had a sinking feeling all evening and the only danger from ice was it melting too quickly when crushed into exotic cocktails! From this conveyancing extravaganza, Modern Law’s Editor, Pete Ward, sent this report…
“Outlining the key objectives of the Awards, Chair Judge David Gilroy spoke of the important role they play within the conveyancing sector…” 41
The Rum Warehouse, LiverpooL Thursday 18th July 2019 The 4th Annual Eclipse Proclaim Modern Law Conveyancing Awards got off to a relaxed start with an early evening red carpet Judges’ Champagne Reception, which set the tone for a glamourous and fun-filled evening – with the serious side of recognising the exceptional achievements of some of the best performers in the conveyancing sector. After making the welcome speech, ridiculously adorned in a green bandana – courtesy of judge Valerie Holmes – I had the pleasure of introducing to the stage Chair Judge (and the man with an alphabet after his name), David Gilroy BSc, MBA, FCIM, MIOD, MPSA, who was also resplendent in, for him, an appropriately ‘corporate’ orange bandana – also courtesy of one Valerie Holmes! Outlining the key objectives of the Awards, David Gilroy spoke of the important role they play within the conveyancing sector by recognising excellence in areas such as customer service and integration of sharp-end legal tech, all to improve the offer-tocompletion process.
time to reflect on its individual achievements, and to celebrate the really great things that are going on in conveyancing!”. Geoff Offen admitted that judging was more of a challenge than he thought it would be, and added, “I had to put some serious hours in to do justice to the amount of detail provided by the nominees, but it was very rewarding process that resulted in very deserving winners!”. Tom Backhouse extolled the virtues of the Awards and explained, “I love the coming together to celebrate all that’s good about conveyancing, and having everyone in the same place at the same time is a great way to showcase the very best of the industry”.
Massive thanks go to our judging panel for the dedicated, timeconsuming, and selfless effort they put into reviewing this year’s incredibly strong nominations – and not least for undertaking the tough task of selecting the very worthy winners and runners-up. Led by Chair of the judging panel David Gilroy, managing director of Stuff & Things, Conscious Solutions, he was ably assisted by Vice-Chair Victor Olowe, a governance consultant with Winzest Consulting and a former Chief Executive of the Council for Licenced Conveyancers. They were supported by their judging panel comprising, Tom Backhouse, CEO and Founder of Terrafirma; property expert Kate Faulkner; Rob Hailstone, former conveyancer and Founder of the Bold Legal Group (BLG); Helen Hamilton-Shaw, Member Engagement & Strategy Director at LawNet; Paula Higgins, Founder and CEO of HomeOwners Alliance; David Hodgson, Treasurer of the Conveyancing Association; Valerie Holmes, Founder of Valerie Holmes Property Lawyer and Chairperson of The Society of Licensed Conveyancers; Sheila Kumar, Chief Executive of the Council of Licensed Conveyancers; Geoff Offen, Managing Director at Future Climate Info Limited; James Sherwood-Rogers, Chairman of the Council of Property Search Organisations (CoPSO); Claire Smith, Head of Business Development at Moneypenny; and Rachel Stow, Managing Director at Thorneycroft Solicitors. Each and every one of them deserves our grateful thanks!
“How important it is for the profession to take time to reflect on its individual achievements, and to celebrate the really great things that are going on in conveyancing” Why conveyancing matters The Awards provide an exciting opportunity for conveyancers to compete head-to-head to showcase their talents, be recognised by their peers, and be adjudicated for their skills and innovation by the expert panel of judges.
In a selection of soundbites from the Judges on the night, Claire Smith said what a privilege it was to be involved in the judging process and spoke of how she was overwhelmed by the amount of talent across each of the awards categories. And as a former lawyer she added, “How incredibly proud I am to see so many rising stars here tonight!”. This was endorsed by Helen HamiltonShaw, who stated, “How important it is for the profession to take
The conveyancing sector has seen much change over the last decade, faced a number of recent challenges and the Award nominees had all demonstrated their ability to respond positively to changes in industry practices, ensuring that they approach the future with confidence. In the process of narrowing down the nominations in each of the 16 categories and special awards, the Judges witnessed at
Outstanding Achievement of the Year: Yvonne Hirons
Lifetime Achievement Award: Peter Rodd
“Indeed, the calibre of this year’s nominations is testament to how the conveyancing sector continually strives to improve the customer experience, making it a more efficient and costeffective process”
first-hand how conveyancers have embraced and adapted to those challenges and opportunities. Indeed, the calibre of this year’s nominations is testament to how the conveyancing sector continually strives to improve the customer experience, making it a more efficient and cost-effective process. Buying a home, or a business property, is one of the most expensive and stressful transactions faced by most of us. So the buyer needs to know exactly what they are buying, and that everything is clearly stated and above board in the eyes of the law. After all, no one wants to end up in dispute over something as trivial as the exact position of a fence boundary, or something more serious like discovering the property is in an area prone to sink-holes.
Our host for the evening was the talented comedian, writer, filmmaker and voice-over artist, Tom Ward. (I was accused of nepotism on more than one occasion as one of my sons is called Tom Ward!) But this Tom kept the evening flowing with a unique blend of laugh-out-loud stand-up comedy and warm and efficient presentation of the awards.
And the winners are There’s a full list of winners, and those highly commended, on Pages 44-45, but a special mention must be made here of the two very worthy individual awards which brought the official part of the evening to a close. Awarded at the discretion of the Judges, these were:
The post-awards celebratory atmosphere never flagged as guests showed their skills at Beer Pong, courtesy of Terrafirma, before the band took to the stage which kept the dancefloor packed until Carriages in the early hours.
• The Outstanding Achievement of the Year Award to Yvonne Hirons, of Perfect Portal, in recognition of her significant contribution to the conveyancing sector, above and beyond the everyday that has had a long-lasting impact • And the Lifetime Achievement Award, and a popular choice with everyone in the room, was presented to Peter Rodd in recognition of his important contribution to the conveyancing profession over a period of ‘many decades’ in the business.
And finally On behalf of the Modern Law team, I would like to thank everyone who took the time to enter, made the shortlist and were highly commended or deserved winners. We now look forward to the 2020 Modern Law Conveyancing Awards. And to make sure your conveyancing firm is up for an award next year, keep a lookout for nomination and ticket details which will be announced later this year.
The host with the most Themed tables, crammed with props and dressing up paraphernalia, added to the fun and a delicious 3-course dinner preceded the main event of the night – the award presentations.
Conveyancing Firm of the Year North of England
Search Provider of the Year
Rising Star of the Year
Innovation of the Year
Conveyancing Firm of the Year North of England
Conveyancing Firm of the Year Wales
Innovation of the Year
Sponsored by Perfect Portal
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HIGHLY COMMENDED: Fletcher Longstaff
HIGHLY COMMENDED: Stephensons Solicitors LLP
HIGHLY COMMENDED: Newbold Solicitors
WINNER: Mullis & Peake LLP Solicitors
WINNER: Countrywide Conveyancing Services
Soundbite: “This is a great win. We’ve tried to incorporate what estate agents do into a law firm, to make it more holistic and user-friendly for clients. Now Roger has some serious moves for the dancefloor to celebrate!”
WINNER: Birchall Blackburn Law Soundbite: “Amazing! It’s our third win in a row so we really didn’t expect to win it again. We’re over the moon. Everyone’s worked really hard. Fantastic!”
Soundbite: “We’re absolutely delighted. It’s a massive team effort from everyone in Cardiff, where we’re based. And thank you to Sarah Lloyd, Darren Hall, and all of the team managers that make Countrywide what it is.”
Sponsored by Future Climate
Rising Star of the Year
Conveyancing Firm of the Year Midlands
Search Provider of the Year
Sponsored by Poweredbypie
Sponsored by SearchFlow
Sponsored by Modern PR
HIGHLY COMMENDED: Sort Legal
HIGHLY COMMENDED: Searches UK Limited
HIGHLY COMMENDED: Luke Neale, PCS Legal
WINNER: PM Property Lawyers
WINNER: Jordan Tunnicliffe, Sort Legal
Soundbite: “It’s been a journey and it’s a success for the number of years we’ve invested in this business.
Soundbite: “It feels amazing to win! There’s so many good competitors out there. It means so much. I never thought that we’d actually win and I’m just so proud for SearchFlow.”
Soundbite: “This is indescribable really! I didn’t expect to win it at all. I feel like I’m still learning a lot of the trade and it was just great to be here. But to win it is just unbelievable!”
Conveyancing Firm of the Year South of England
Service Provider of the Year Sponsored by Conscious Solutions
Sponsored by Thirdfort
HIGHLY COMMENDED: Perfect Portal
HIGHLY COMMENDED: AVRillo LLP & The Partnership
WINNER: InfoTrack Soundbite: “Awesome to win this award, as what we’re trying to do is provide more of a service across different technologies for conveyancers, rather than just searches.”
WINNER: Adams & Remers LLP
Client Care Award
Outstanding Commitment to Training
Best Use of Technology
Conveyancer of the Year
Client Care Award
Property Team of the Year
Outstanding Achievement of the Year
Sponsored by Coal Authority
Sponsored by InfoTrack
Sponsored by Terrafirma
HIGHLY COMMENDED: Kuits
WINNER: Yvonne Hirons
WINNER: Stephensons Solicitors LLP
Soundbite: “Amazing! I’m almost speechless. Everything you do is so worthwhile when you win something like this. It’s just unbelievable. I’m made up. But it’s the team that have made this possible.”
HIGHLY COMMENDED: Rowlinsons Solicitors WINNER: Bell Lamb and Joynson Solicitors Soundbite: We’re very proud. Our team has worked incredibly hard to win this award which shows we are compelled towards providing the finest client care.”
Best Use of Technology
Soundbite: “What can I say? It’s been a particularly challenging year in the conveyancing market. There’s a lot of competition out there. A lot of firms and individuals doing great work, so it’s terrific to win this award – for the second year in a row no less, and we’re very happy!”
Lifetime Achievement Award
Sponsored by Eclipse Proclaim
HIGHLY COMMENDED: Ramsdens Solicitors LLP
Conveyancer of the Year
WINNER: Peter Rodd
WINNER: Stephensons Solicitors LLP
Sponsored by Safemove
Soundbite: “It’s great to be acknowledged! It’s a programme we’ve been working on for three years, on voice recognition, robots… And it’s great that the Judges have acknowledged what we’ve achieved.”
HIGHLY COMMENDED: Claire Wright, Countrywide Conveyancing Services
Sponsored by Future Climate
WINNER: Jonathan Achampong (Wedlake Bell LLP)
Outstanding Commitment to Training
National Conveyancing Firm of the Year
Sponsored by Future Climate
Sponsored by Geodesys
HIGHLY COMMENDED: Countrywide Conveyancing Services
HIGHLY COMMENDED: Birchall Blackburn Law
WINNER: My Home Move Soundbite: “We’re delighted to have won this award for the third year running! And we’re absolutely committed to training in our business. It’s crucial to develop our people and that’s what helps us to succeed.”
WINNER: PM Property Lawyers Soundbite: Our team’s put everything we can into customer service and it’s a win for their efforts across the board.”
Soundbite: “It’s an enormous honour and it came as a complete surprise. The comments were extremely flattering and I’m very grateful for those. I wish the conveyancers that are still practising well – but I’m very pleased to be enjoying my retirement! And thank you to Modern Law for organising tonight!”
A word for our sponsors… A huge ‘thank you’ goes to all those generous firms who sponsored different aspects to make the evening so enjoyable, including: Thorneycroft Solicitors (Champagne and Media Board); Stewart Title (Wine); Future Climate (Tickets, Table Plan & Menus); Terrafirma (Programme & Entertainment); Geodesys (Party Boxes on Tables). Kindly sponsoring each award category were: Perfect Portal, SearchFlow, Thirdfort, GlobalX, Modern PR (more of this later!), Future Climate Info (3 awards), poweredbypie, Conscious, The Coal Authority, InfoTrack, SafeMove, Geodesys, Terrafirma, and Eclipse Proclaim, Final thanks go to our Silver Sponsor, Future Climate, and especially to our Headline Sponsor, Eclipse Proclaim.
Should law firms look to get better value from technologies they already have rather than focus on shiny new toys such as AI? Our resident Tech columnist Charles Christian writes…
his is a cause dear to my heart. As someone who has long studied the vagaries of the legal technology market, it is curious to see that while law firm managements are frequently parsimonious when it comes to technology procurement budgets, they can still get carried away with ‘The New, New Thing’ (check out the book of the same name about pre-DotCom Boom Silicon Valley by Michael Lewis) to the point that rather than invest in fixing what they’ve already got, they pursue some technological pipe-dream. In recent years this has included knowledge management systems and, currently, so-called AI/artificial intelligence systems.
“Without wishing to dampen anyone’s enthusiasm for spending money, the fact is most law firms do not utilise their existing IT systems anywhere near to their full extent”
My personal favourite was back in 1999 when the market was gripped by ‘Y2K/Millennium Bug’ fever. I’d written a book for the English Law Society on this topic and was at a major exhibition to promote it. The most memorable incident for me was when the partner in charge of IT for a mid-sized firm told me he didn’t need to buy my book “because we are replacing all our computer hardware and software”.
Many smaller firms still use the ‘sitting next to Nelly’ approach to induction and the training of new staff to use IT. Unfortunately, as time goes by, the original Nelly leaves and another Nelly takes over the mantle as the fount of all knowledge. The net result is over the years a firm’s internal know-how about the systems it uses can decline to the point where the tech is not being exploited to anything like its full capacity. In fact, I’ve known firms shopping around to buy new systems offering Functionality X, only to have to have their original supplier point out their existing system has always offered X functionality but the firm had just forgotten about it. Even where systems lack certain functionality, the original vendor or third-party suppliers may be able to offer compatible add-on systems that allow a firm to achieve more benefits from their systems – but without having to replace the entire system. For example, add-on management reporting/BI (business intelligence) software can allow firms to get more out of (and, more importantly, prolong the life of) accounts/ practice management systems. Other popular add-on options include time recording, document template formatting, and marketing applications.
I pointed out that for £9.99 he could buy the book and might well find out that his firm’s system could be made Y2K compliant by installing some low-cost (and in some cases they were free) bug fixes. But he was having none of it. He’d been swept along by the hype and scare stories and swallowed the line the only solution was to throw everything out and start all over again. Without wishing to dampen anyone’s enthusiasm for spending money, the fact is most law firms do not utilise their existing IT systems anywhere near to their full extent. Most of the core systems in law firms (including accounts/ practice management, document management, case management, digital dictation/speech recognition and even good old Microsoft Word wordprocessing) are remarkably sophisticated products containing a host of features that are never used.
Why? Various explanations exist including the firm never invested in the necessary training at the outset when it was installed (most law firms opt for the minimum, i.e. cheapest, training available) and/or the people who were trained have either forgotten about it or left the firm.
is the Founder of the Legal IT Insider newsletter and talks about tech and geek stuff on Twitter at @UrbanFantasist
So don’t panic. You may be dissatisfied with your current systems but there could well be some simple and relatively low-cost solutions available to both enhance their performance and extend their working life. And they’ll deliver a far better return on investment (RoI) than you’ll ever get from AI!
Tech? Why Law firm management should be worried about human error! Human error is a threat to data protection at every firm. Samantha Jefferies explains why she wouldn’t be surprised if it was the source of many sleepless nights or C Level executives.
ata breach reports from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) show that incidents in the legal sector rose by 112% between 2016 and 2018, largely because of human error. Law firms are used to putting in barriers against external threats, like cybersecurity and phishing, but human error is the latest unconquered frontier on the journey to proper data protection.
Track Changes, and embedded objects often contain personal information that, if inadvertently leaked, could breach the data protection requirements of the GDPR. Metadata needs to be cleaned from documents before they leave the firm to minimise the risk – but busy lawyers and legal professionals don’t always remember this step.
Threat one: Missent emails With over 205 billion email sends on an average weekday, there is a lot of room for error.
The head of IT at an ISO 27001 certified law firm recently told us that “metadata was always something that was discussed and always something on our radar. And then, with ISO 27001 and the GDPR in effect, we decided to actively do something about the potential it had to cause an accidental data breach.”
An IT director at one of the UK’s Top 200 firms explained to us once that he knew innocent mistakes over email could violate data protection requirements, so he and his team looked for ways to change how staff shared information.
To remind staff that metadata needed to be managed on outgoing documents, the firm looked for a technology solution that would “prompt users to check email recipients, force password encryption and strip metadata.”
The firm had email recipient domain name checking software deployed to stop users accidentally mistyping an email address, but it needed to add more functionality to prevent other kinds of errors.
The best metadata cleaning solution is one that reminds users to clean attachments when they click Send. This adds an extra layer of protection against human error and forgetfulness.
After some research and testing, the firm implemented cleanDocs, a hybrid email recipient checking and metadata management solution, so staff are now protected from sending emails to the wrong person, and attachments are cleaned of potentially damaging metadata before leaving the firm.
Threat three: Improper redaction Improper redaction continually makes headlines, not unlike those about Paul Manafort’s lawyers at the start of the year.
Fortunately, some firms are already well on their way to minimising the potential for error.
Threat two: Metadata Document metadata like author properties,
easily discovered by copying and pasting it into a new Word document. An innovation manager and solicitor at one of Scotland’s leading firms implemented a proper redaction solution internally, to reduce the likelihood of someone making a similar mistake. Unlike highlighting text in black, this firm can now apply proper PDF redaction that is burned into the file and not able to be uncovered. The time pressure and heavy workloads of lawyers and legal professionals mean accidents can still happen. That’s why the same firm made sure its metadata cleaning solution would inspect email attachments and flag unsafe redactions. Now, if redaction is done incorrectly, the user will know before it ends up in the hands of someone else. In summary Focussing only on threats external to the firm is an easy trap to fall into. The numbers show, however, that human error is a threat that isn’t going away. Simple but effective changes can be made to help protect staff from inadvertently causing a breach. It pays to start making those changes today.
In this case, redaction was attempted by covering the text with a black box or black highlight before converting the document to PDF. However, the text under the black area was still present and
“Law firms are used to putting in barriers against external threats, like cybersecurity and phishing, but human error is the latest unconquered frontier on the journey to proper data protection”
is the Vice President of EMEA at DocsCorp
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Staying ahead of the curve Much of the headline discussion around legal tech is focussed on AI, or on law firms looking for some whizzy app that will help position themselves in the marketplace of the future. But on a more pedestrian level, there are plenty of online technologies that are already helping deliver legal services more efficiently. Jamie Halliday tell us more...
he legal profession is not exactly renowned for embracing new technologies, and conveyancing may be one of the worst offenders (we’ve had to explain to a few customers that we do not have a fax number nor do we want one – old habits die hard it seems). But technology has impacted our day-to-day lives to such an enormous extent over the past ten years that it is only natural that these changes would seep into even the most traditional professions. We launched Bluebutton as a primarily online legal indemnities provider because we saw where the market was going. Providers were seeing fewer enquiries coming in by old-fashioned snail-mail, and even the phone was starting to lose out to email or online enquiries. Solicitors want a quick and efficient quotation at any time of day, without having to have a long chat with someone, or waiting days for a response. As more of the processes that form conveyancing transactions move online, it makes sense to be ahead of the curve. But we also thought there
was space in the market for a site with an element of fun – experience with a sense of humour. Our best dad jokes don’t diminish our expertise, but they might make the process a bit less boring for anyone using it. Any new website has to stand out in a crowded market. A good site can handle an incredible array of enquiries, from the most straightforward and mundane, through to the more unusual scenarios or issues. We were determined to put as much information as possible into the database, mapping out all the possible question and answer combinations, to ensure that the site used by solicitors closely mirrors the steps an actual underwriter would take you through.
still guaranteeing accurate and efficient indemnity solutions, saves time and money. This provides a huge amount of flexibility to the solicitor, supporting a more positive customer experience, and delivering a solution to your client that mitigates risk and delay. But what more do solicitors want from a legal indemnity website? Well we’re pretty sure they want plenty of puns and robots wearing smartypants, but that may just be us. As flexible working becomes more common, websites need to be as reliable at 2am as they are at 11am. They must be intuitive and easy to navigate; responsive; and with enough flexibility to ensure you get the quote you need in the shortest time possible. But why can’t they be fun too?
To stay ahead in the marketplace, the emphasis has to be on the user - the more reliable the site, the bigger the benefit to the solicitor and to their client. Fewer delays, and a more transparent transactional process, can only be of benefit to the property market, especially as clients increasingly demand digitised solutions. Speeding up the process, while
“As more of the processes that form conveyancing transactions move online, it makes sense to be ahead of the curve” 53
is Head of Underwriting at bluebutton.co.uk
The triumph of technology To some people legal technology is a daunting subject and one to be avoided. This is perhaps because they’re old enough to remember when technology was first introduced and there were black screens with green writing on them. Changing the width of a margin called for a PhD in Computer Science and technology was distinct from the actual practice of legal services. Alex Williams explains...
ut relax. It’s not like that anymore and technology has to be at the heart of a modern law firm. My generation grew up with technology that’s designed with one simple purpose in mind: to make life easier. And this is nowhere truer than in the legal sector where practice management systems, for instance, are revolutionising the way firms now deliver law. Making customer delivery better How does practice management technology make a difference? Well think about what the client will want. Is it getting value for money legal services? That their data is kept securely? That their matters are attended to promptly? That they feel they can really trust their lawyers? That they have good methods of communication with the lawyer? All of these? The right modern practice management system takes care of all that. I work with Tikit’s Partner for Windows (P4W) practice management system. As an example of modern technology when a new client comes along, using technology called FormShare, their details can be typed straight into a digital form on a laptop or PC. It means their particulars are captured and that the information is accurate, complete and held securely. There are no more stray scraps of paper lying around to be hunted down, lost or stolen. No more bad handwriting to decipher when trying to rekey data. Data is held in a secure system which can only be accessed by authorised individuals. What’s more, it can always be accessed by them – no matter where they are and
“Modern technology is delivering a quicker, more accurate, transparent and secure service from the client’s perspective” no matter when they need it. Important security and compliance boxes are ticked. At the same time, clients are getting the really efficient delivery of law that they will increasingly come to expect.
after the fact, is recorded precisely. The clients get more detailed and accurate bills – which they find more trustworthy. Yet at the same time the firm is billing more than it would do otherwise.
Turning up the dial on competitiveness What’s more, this type of technology really works for firms because it creates tremendous internal efficiencies, stripping out administrative tasks and freeing up people’s time, so they can focus on higher value work. How? Well, for example, welcome letters can be generated automatically when a new client’s details are added. This is populated with the client’s name and address and terms of business and so on. But also, the system will have created a new client file, a matter, and a letter which will detail next steps applicable in their precise circumstances. The client gets an accurate letter, and they get it promptly electronically.
Modern technology is delivering a quicker, more accurate, transparent and secure service from the client’s perspective. At the same time, firms are stripping out administration costs, making them more competitive and more able to scale up. We all know technology is here to stay, but what counts is using it to the very best competitive advantage.
More than that, the system can keep track of the time taken to, for example, attendance at a police station or at court. This time is recorded and goes through into the billing system. Moreover, time that’s very often lost because people forget about it, or record it inaccurately
is P4W Product Manager at Tikit.
3E: Flexible and truly bespoke
Richard Foulds is Managing Director of Focus Legal Solutions
ow law firms can get the best out of their 3E system, what can be done to make it truly bespoke, and how the potential can be maximised for full effect. Richard Foulds explains. For me the beauty of 3E is how flexible and truly bespoke you can make it whilst keeping it truly 3E. The 3E Framework keeps everything inline so as not to compromise the way the system looks and behaves. The main areas where firms benefit from this flexibility to make 3E truly bespoke are, Screens, Workflows, Notifications, Integration, Security, Templates and Reporting. Out-of-the-box 3E comes with a lot of pre-built processes which are designed to give the majority of firms everything they need. However as all firms are different and work in different ways, these can be changed to streamline either the accounting function or the front end user experience using 3E’s built in IDE. Here at Focus we have been involved in creating some truly complex processes
and workflows to allow firms to maximise the amount of information they are able to collect and process, whilst making it as simple as possible for the front end users. This minimises the amount of time it takes to do the work whilst ensuring data integrity whether for Billing, New Business Intake, Trust, Records or anything else you can think of – or will think of! Generally the larger processes such as billing capture much more information than a typical Fee Earner, for example, might need. However, this information may still be required by the finance or billing team. The built in workflow engine can be configured so that you could have a cut-down version of the proforma screen for a Fee Earner with the full version for the finance or the billing team, all within the same process. This is particularly useful when processes require authorisations. If a process doesn’t exist, this can be built within the IDE and simply slotted into an existing workflow, for example CDD in a new business intake workflow. Notifications also allow you to interact with 3E from your email, this can be especially useful for processes which require authorisations and can be triggered within a workflow, and by clicking the link within
“…the beauty of 3E is how flexible and truly bespoke you can make it whilst keeping it truly 3E. The 3E Framework keeps everything inline so as not to compromise the way the system looks and behaves” 55
the notification it will take you into the 3E process and record allowing you to perform the necessary action. A lot of firms are using external systems to do specific jobs outside of 3E such as collections or expenses. 3E’s default integration tool to bring in this data is currently Microsoft Biztalk and there are a number of prebuilt processes in place where the data is as expected. However, the 3E Framework is such that it will allow you to do this using the web services, so for example loading new entities, clients and matters from an Excel spreadsheet can be done either from Excel itself or having a process inside 3E picking up a data file, or reading a database from another system and processing it through the relevant 3E process, without the need for intermediary systems. Both of these approaches have worked well for clients and this means the skillset needed to maintain bespoke integrations is reduced. For reporting, 3E uses both live data reports and metrics, the metrics create warehouse tables and can be run ad-hoc allowing you to get up-to-the-minute, or scheduled, data and are separate from the transactional data tables. Incorporating something like SeeClear allows you to create SSRS or Power BI reports from 3E either live data or from the Metrics using the 3E framework and displaying them in 3E. This also allows you to have much greater functionality such as our SeeClear VAT report which without having to extract data and pass it to another system to submit it to HMRC, can be submitted to HMRC straight out of the report which is embedded in 3E.
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Rise of the robot trainer?
With so much chat in the legal world about the use of robotics, artificial intelligence and all manner of innovations in the legal tech space; we could be forgiven for thinking that the world of ‘chalk and talk’ training – face-to-face knowledge imparted by a human being to a group of assembled delegates – is one area that couldn’t possibly be superseded by technology. Paul, Saunders assesses the role of eLearning.
esearch from the Research Institute of America shows that eLearning is one of the fastest growing industries in the world and continues to grow rapidly. Since the year 2000 the growth rate is reported to be in the region of 900%. Why’s that? The same study showed that the amount of information retained by delegates increases from 25% to 60% when online training is used. The researchers put this down to the fact that delegates can progress at their own pace using an online resource and can revisit information as needed. There are also huge productivity benefits. According to an IBM study, participants learned nearly five times more material than they did in traditional training without increasing the time spent in training. In the USA IBM reported that every dollar invested in online training results in $30 in productivity. This is mainly because employees have to take less time out of the working day and are able to apply the knowledge in their workplace straight away after the training. An online training facility can be particularly effective where employees need to be aware of an organisation’s processes and procedures and to gain a more in-depth understanding of why guidelines and rules are important and relevant to them in their daily work. For example in relation to anti money laundering, the online module will outline the firm’s specific policies and procedures in relation to AML – but it will also set out the context and reasons why it’s so important that fee earners and staff follow the procedures that have been set out. Delegates can take an AML training module and then the quiz that follows will test their understanding of both the principles and concepts behind the policies as well as just the procedure itself. In this way staff can understand WHY they
“According to an IBM study, participants learned nearly five times more material than they did in traditional training without increasing the time spent in training” are being asked to work in this way – and the consequences of not doing so – in a very practical way. Of course, no one is advocating the eradication of face-to-face training. It can be extremely useful to have someone present a bespoke training session to your team, to be able to field questions there and then, and to have someone come to your place of work. On the flipside, how often is training organised only to have people not show because of urgent work arising at the last minute, people arriving late or being unable to travel to the training venue? Busy professionals often prefer to be able to fit training in at a time that suits them. Rather than holding up client work, online training offers a flexible alternative that works around hectic schedules and client emergencies. Delegates can access the training modules online at a time and place that suits them and at a moment when they can dedicate their full attention to the important matters arising. The Legal Eye Academy is an example of an online training offering that has been developed specifically for law firms. All of the core risk and compliance-related modules are included offering firms a ‘pick and mix’ choice of which modules (typically 30 minutes each) they would like to take up. This includes regular updates of
modules such as an updated AML module released only this month. Current users report that the Academy has saved significant amounts of time both in terms of not taking time out of the working day for staff to physically attend the sessions; but also by reducing the administrative burden surrounding the organisation, delivery, record keeping and ‘chasing’ that is typically involved in ensuring the consistent and comprehensive delivery of risk and compliance training across a firm. So will the robots take over? No… there will always be a place for the human touch in delivering nuanced and bespoke training. But online training offers a practical, convenient and cost effective option to be considered as part of a firm’s overall risk and compliance and professional development plans.
is Managing Director of Legal Eye
Attracting rising stars Maria Hardwidge has been at the forefront of the growth of the Premex+ business for the past six years. She has over 18 years’ experience working in the medico legal industry and has a vast array of knowledge and expertise working with experts and law firms on clinical negligence cases and complex claims. Q: Is the clinical negligence sector attracting the younger generation into its ranks? A: Whilst the age of our medical experts is not necessarily a factor in their expertise, experience often takes time and, to some degree, has influenced the demographic of our expert panel. Premex+ seeks to maintain a broad range of experts, whose expertise is not only relevant to standards and procedures at the time of incident, but in line with the fast changing landscape in contemporary medical practices. It is therefore essential that we continue to attract and engage with rising stars in their respective fields to help bring fresh perspectives and relevant specialisms. Our expert recruitment strategy, training seminars and product innovation enable us to provide support to all medical experts including the younger generation who may be new to clinical negligence.
In relation to lawyers, the impact of the younger generation may also be felt in the emergence of new entrants to the market and sector. Tech savvy millennials and forward thinking law firms are looking to use innovative technology to streamline the claims process, reducing nonvalue effort, minimising costs, all whilst ensuring the claimant is at the heart of everything they do. At Premex+ we respect differing operating models and pride ourselves on our ability to collaborate with law firms on new ways of working. Through internal apprenticeships, expert training and industry conferences, Premex+ is actively seeking to engage with the younger generation and emerging players on all counts. Q: What future challenges and opportunities do you expect to impact on the CN market?
A: Perhaps one of the greatest challenges and opportunities on the horizon is the proposed reforms from the Department of Health consultation on Fixed Recoverable Costs in Lower Value Claims. Whilst this is a welcome review in terms of managing costs and time to resolution, the proposal to fix expert costs may have wide ranging implications for the sector. If expert costs are fixed too low, there is a considerable risk that experts of the required calibre and specialism may withdraw from the market, choosing an alternative source of income if they are not sufficiently remunerated. This may lead to experts providing reports whom may not have the relevant experience, having a detrimental effect on a claimant’s ability to pursue their case and delay a resolution. Premex+ is giving careful consideration to each of the proposals to ensure our expert panel and services remain an effective and integral part of the clinical negligence marketplace.
“It is therefore essential that we continue to attract and engage with rising stars in their respective fields to help bring fresh perspectives and relevant specialisms” Maria Hardwidge
is Managing Director of Premex+
Whistling in the dark
Impact of costs management
Steve England has been in Legal Technology since 2010 and is now MedBrief’S MD. Prior to his role at MedBrief, Steve worked as an eDiscovery Consultant involved in Commercial Litigation playing a lead role in the UK’s first ‘predictive coding’ judgement.
Gerard Courtney is responsible for the preparation of budgets in high value, complex disputes. In a previous role Ged specialised in clinical negligence costs disputes on behalf of Defendants, although the vast majority of his current work relates predominantly to work on behalf of Claimant Lawyers. Ged regularly appears in the County Court and High Court on behalf of Solicitor clients on a variety of costs issues ranging from CCMC hearings to detailed assessment, and assessments under the Solicitors Act 1974.
Q: What are the current hot issues affecting the clinical negligence sector? A: Clinical Negligence firms face challenges from operational, financial and compliance perspectives, which could be summarised as follows:
Q: What future challenges and opportunities do you expect to impact the CN Market?
1. Increased client awareness as to their rights and remedies in the event they believe they have suffered as a result of negligence. 2. Increasing volume of non-meritorious cases diverting focus from authentic cases, reducing profitability and increasing ATE insurance premiums if not identified early. 3. Achieving and maintaining compliance with key legislation in respect of sensitive personal data, where accepted practices for the management of patient records fall materially short of the legislative framework.
A: Clearly one of the of main challenges faced by lawyers will be the introduction of a fixed costs process in clinical negligence matters. Back in 2016, Sir Rupert Jackson recommended the creation of a working group to devise a bespoke process and Fixed Costs Regime for clinical negligence cases up to £25,000.00. The decision to exclude CN from the general extension to fixed costs between £25,000.00 and £100,000.00 is clearly good news, with the government acknowledging that a “one-size fits all” approach does not suit work of this nature. Unfortunately, it doesn’t necessarily address the fact that so much weight is placed on the level of damages. CN practitioners will regularly encounter incredibly complex matters of great importance to Claimant’s and their families, particularly in areas such as end of life care and fatality matters, where damages recovered are often a poor indication of the legal and medical issues which need to be addressed.
Further, as companies such as ourselves expand our range of services to improve efficiency and information security; Law Firms and ATE providers must answer the question “Who does what…and who should pay for it?” Many Law firms now accept that a non-recoverable cost can still offer excellent return on investment if it saves fee-earner time on administrative tasks. Q: Will an ageing population, and rising population, lead to more CN claims?
Whilst costs management and detailed assessment have a significant impact on the level of costs awarded, supposedly resulting in an award for costs which is both reasonable and proportionate, it is clear that the government wants costs in this area to decrease. The logical implication being that costs under a FRC regime would be lower than those which a Court may previously have found to be reasonable and proportionate. The question remains whether or not it will be viable for specialist CN firms to remain in the lower value market and if they cannot, where do victims of medical negligence go? Regularly these issues are not within the ability of litigants in person.
A: The ONS reported between 2005/06 and 2014/15 the number of people aged over 65 increased by almost 20% and the number aged 85 and over rose by 33% with these trends set to accelerate. AGE UK’s view: “If an older person asked us today how confident we were that their health and care needs will be met well in the future we would be whistling in the dark if we gave a wholly reassuring answer. That is something about which we should all be profoundly concerned” Recently, there has been a steady increase in older people being readmitted as emergencies, experiencing delayed transfers and unnecessary admissions for conditions which should have been managed in the community. Worryingly for the clinical negligence industry and NHS Resolution, Accident and Emergency and Orthopaedic specialties account for 25% of claims, both areas in which the elderly are over-represented.
With the CJC pushing back the date for reporting on this issue from Autumn last year to some as yet to be determined point, there does appear to be some positive signs for Claimant lawyers and the government alike. NHS Resolution’s annual report for 2018/19 showed a 5% reduction to the level of fees paid out to Claimant lawyers. Streamlining processes and an increased preparedness to mediate could be the cause but given the time it takes to bring and settle many of these disputes, it could also be put down to the impact of costs management as Court’s become more confident with the process. If trends like this continue and the introduction of FRC continues to be questioned by the likes of Lord Falconer, there may be some steps back by the Government although history would suggest that this is unlikely. Whether or not it will be viable for firms to continue to represent clients in low value clinical negligence disputes remains to be seen.
Q: What future challenges and opportunities do you expect to impact on the CN market? A: Clinical Negligence is an unreformed sector; technology represents both the greatest opportunity for success and the greatest challenge for those who resist it. You’d expect me to say that, but having witnessed the same evolution in the Commercial Litigation market it is true! By way of example; while data from one case could help to predict the outcome of another using the data from hundreds of previous cases to predict the outcome of a single case is more likely to yield useful results.
“The question remains whether or not it will be viable for specialist CN firms to remain in the lower value market and if they cannot, where do victims of medical negligence go?”
NHS Resolution’s ambitious embrace of technology in responding to the consideration of many decades of medical records, which our changing demography will make the norm, is encouraging. The industry more widely has recognised that the challenge of streamlining the fair resolution of an increasing number of claims and taking care of personal data can only be met by an openness to technology. Put simply; paperless used to be a pipe dream, now digitisation is essential for any firm wanting to remain relevant.
is Managing Director of MedBrief Limited
is Head of Costs Management at Pure Legal Costs Consultants
Mark Hewitt is a true innovator who has spent his career creating and developing bespoke IT solutions. He began working on piCalculator in 2006 when his lawyer sister challenged him to write a piece of software to make her life easier. piCalculator assists in the calculation of complex damages required for clinical negligence claims.
Matt Hughes joined Dorset Orthopaedic in 2001 after graduating from the University of Salford with a degree in prosthetics and orthotics. Before becoming Clinic Manager at the Ringwood Clinic in 2013, he was responsible for the development of clinical partners for Dorset Orthopaedic around the world, presenting and lecturing on the use of silicone in prosthetics and orthotics, as well as developing new everyday silicone solutions for patients.
Q: Will fixed recoverable costs for some claims, more mediation, and the rapid resolution and redress scheme for birth injuries result in slower CN market growth?
Q: What are the treatment options for people with injuries resulting from clinical negligence?
A: Our view is the potential changes can be seen as an opportunity, certainly in the case of fixed recoverable costs. If approached with this outlook firms can find ways to improve efficiencies without losing, and potentially even enhancing, the service they provide to their clients and therefore maintaining growth. Until a change forces you to review your process why bother fixing something that isn’t broken? These possible changes give all businesses operating within the CN market the chance to refine every step of their process to ensure they’re working as efficiently as possible, outsourcing the bare minimum and providing the best value money for all whilst still providing the optimum journey for the client or customer. Whether it’s getting the work in, fee earner methodologies, managing the client’s expectations or how the case is ultimately resolved, if there are improvements that can be made why not look at those now anyway? Even if nothing changes, you’ll be improving the service the existing client receives.
A: From our perspective, at Dorset Orthopaedic, clinical negligence cases resulting in amputation can be incredibly varied, from single digit loss through to multi-limb loss. We provide patient care and treatment options, specific to each individual’s needs and requirements, from prosthetics and physiotherapy, to occupational therapy in the home. Q: How has technology advanced for amputees over the last few years? A: Clinical negligence patients suffering limb loss have benefited from incredible advances in prosthetics technology over the last 10 years. Microprocessor knees have become the norm for patients with above-knee, through-knee, or through hip amputations. These devices give the patient much better control and so reduce falls and stumbles which ultimately can lead to other serious problems. By moving to microprocessor knees and away from mechanical knees, also improves a patient’s ability to walk more comfortably for longer, with improved walking symmetry. Plus, working with a physiotherapist can improve the long term wear and tear on the patient’s body by preserving joints and taking away the strain to reduce pain and discomfort in later life.
Q: Are there any practices that could easily be modernised as standard to not only benefit the injured party but also allow the firm to thrive in the modern climate? A: There are numerous ways firms and practitioners can modernise without losing their personal approach to clients or dumbing down what they do. Our expertise lies in technology and specifically calculating damages. We want to empower fee earners to draft schedules of loss for complex claims that they previously might shy away from or use outdated methods. Using a software system such as piCalculator, rather than relying on manual creation of spreadsheets or calculating by hand, has additional advantages, beginning with the lack of errors that can easily creep into large, complex tables. Not only can the schedule be worked on incrementally, it can be updated at any time if the landscape of the claim shifts. For example, if a new piece of evidence comes in that affects life expectancy, it can be changed in the system and the entire schedule recalculated almost instantly. The clear benefit being that the solicitor can update the client immediately, providing an even greater service and being fully informed themselves. In addition, when data is entered into a software system specifically designed for purpose, it becomes structured—and that’s a game changer. Structured data can be easily analysed, and from there, wide-scale improvements in consistency and other key performance indicators.
Thanks also to huge advances in socket technologies and improved interfaces between prosthetics and patient, whether that’s through surgical intervention such as osseointegration or looking at improved socket manufacturing techniques and materials to make prosthetics as comfortable as possible, we’re able to push the boundaries of what amputees can now do with prosthetics. And advances are not just lower limb related. In the world of upper limb prosthetics, significant advances have come with multi-articulating myoelectric prosthetic hands, with individual digits, as well as now looking at TMR (Targeted Muscle Reinnervation) which makes using electric functional hands and terminal devices easier for patients to adapt to and use in a normal setting. Basically, everything is about trying to restore, replace and make everyday life more normal for patients. Q: Psychologically, how do patients deal with their situation as a result of clinical negligence? A: Every patient deals with their limb loss in a different way, and psychology is an important area we address at Dorset. Clinical negligence patients are dealing with limb loss from the perspective that they had no control over the process. Something had been taken away from them, and this can prove to be a huge process of acceptance. We, as clinicians, need to mindful of this when we’re treating patients to ensure the right support network and structure is in place which allows them to move forward and get on with their lives.
“…when data is entered into a software system specifically designed for purpose, it becomes structured—and that’s a game changer”
is Managing Director of piCalculator (a Verisk business)
is Managing Director of Dorset Orthopaedic
Borderline or fluctuating capacity
Links in the value chain David Vine’s primary role is working with law firms in the ATE market and for the past ten years concentrating on Clinical Negligence, ensuring the best products for both the client and the firm.
Jane Netting deals with all types of Court of Protection matters that relate to property and financial affairs, often dealing with applications involving people who have suffered a catastrophic injury and received a significant award. Jane also assists litigators by preparing witness statements to examine the likely costs of a professional deputy for the claimant.
Q: What are the current hot issues affecting the clinical negligence sector? A: Two hot issues in my view: 1. Fixed recoverable costs (FRC) 2. Cash flow
Q: What are the current hot issues affecting the clinical negligence sector?
FCR FRC is a festering sore with continued uncertainty around whether this will happen and, if so, at what level. What will this mean for the law firm business model – will firms be able to run cases below £25,000 profitably? Or will they have to reassess what cases they look at and how their departments are set up in terms of experience and indeed headcount? Will there be sufficient cases above £25,000 to keep departments running or will firms have to become even more niche, concentrating on specific case types?
A: As a Court of Protection practitioner, I see borderline capacity as a “hot topic”. If a claimant clearly has capacity they can put their award into a Personal Injury Trust if they wish. If a claimant clearly lacks capacity then we can apply for a deputy to be appointed. The issue is less clear if the claimant has borderline or fluctuating capacity. Usually the costs of a professional trustee cannot be claimed if a Personal Injury Trust is put in place but a professional deputy can be. A very specific capacity assessment ought to be obtained on this point. If the claimant is assessed as having capacity and a trust is put in place they would be at a financial loss if it later transpired a deputy was needed. A period of independent living can help in the sense that it can sometimes reveal a more accurate level of capacity that can be masked when a claimant is living in a supported family unit.
Cash flow More and more Clinical Negligence (CN) firms are turning to litigation funders, or seeing what the ATE insurance market can offer by way of disbursement funding to ease the cash flow challenges their businesses face. Defendant tactics are placing pressure on cash flow and, with far fewer cases having successful outcomes, the pressure on businesses to make profit and release cash is becoming ever more demanding.
What about the concept of a supported trust? That is, could the claimant have capacity to put a trust in place and manage their financial affairs provided that they accept the ongoing support of family members and professionals? Can the cost of a professional trustee be claimed in these circumstances? The current law in this area is not clear.
Q: What future challenges and opportunities do you expect to impact on the CN market? A: Law firms who see themselves as a business that transacts litigation rather than one that deals with matters in the way they’ve always done will survive and grow. I believe that there will be two types of successful law firms; those who can dominate through size and economies of scale and those who are niche. Law firms need to be in the third decade of the 21st century now, understanding what clients want and how they want to be dealt with. Firms need to look at how they work, as a big department v self-employed consultants, looking more commercially as to who they work with throughout the value chain and how they can differentiate themselves in the market.
Q: In your experience, what are the most common instances of medical negligence (e.g. misdiagnosis, incorrect treatment, surgical mistakes)? A: In the Court of Protection field we act as deputy for numerous claimants who have received a clinical negligence award. The most common cause of clinical negligence that I see is linked to some sort of birth injury. More often than not, that is a hypoxic brain injury. We act as deputy in numerous cases where the NHS has either failed to act or failed to act expediently. Mother and baby has therefore either gone through a “normal” vaginal delivery or baby has been delivered by caesarean section but too late to avoid a hypoxic brain injury. We also have come across a number of cases where there has been faulty equipment. The equipment that was supposed to help baby breathe has in turn caused a hypoxic brain injury. There was negligence by NHS staff due to their failure to either acknowledge or react to safety alarms built into the system. Often a hypoxic brain injury at birth leads to lifelong physical and mental disabilities. The claimant is likely to be reliant on others for all of their daily needs.
Forward thinking law firms will continue to thrive but those firms who are slower to adapt to market, technological and societal developments will either exit or be swallowed up by the firms who can take advantage of the opportunities that CN still offers to those who know what they’re doing.
“I believe that there will be two types of successful law firms; those who can dominate through size and economies of scale and those who are niche”
“The most common cause of clinical negligence that I see is linked to some sort of birth injury. More often than not, that is a hypoxic brain injury”
is a Partner and Head of Court of Protection team, at Wrigleys Solicitors
is Business Development Manager at Allianz Legal Protection
10 MINS WITH
Claire Smith Q A
Has the industry changed drastically since you started working in it?
Without a doubt the biggest change I’ve seen is in relation to the widespread adoption of technology in order to improve the customer experience. More and more firms are focusing on delivering an amazing customer experience. Live chat is a perfect example as more and more firms are starting to recognise the need to engage with consumers on their terms, which means being accessible at any time of day or night, and with a multi-channel approach.
What has been the key positive, or negative, impact of change in your area of the market?
There’s been a marked shift in the legal sector’s approach to outsourcing and there’s now a very real appetite to do so, particularly when it comes to finding ways to be more competitive, more efficient and to cater for changing consumer demands. I think the benefits of reducing distractions and freeing up lawyers so they can concentrate on their primary tasks is now universally understood, which is why firms are more willing to work with a variety of outsourced partners, including in some of the less traditional business functions such as customer service. The rapid pace of technological change is a key driver of this, and it has really changed the legal landscape – from what customers want and expect, right through to how firms operate, communicate, innovate and keep themselves relevant.
Who inspires/inspired you and why?
I have to say our founders Ed and Rachel. When you look at the business they have grown and their investment in people – it really is inspiring. I am incredibly lucky to work for such a fast growing business who continue to put customer and employees at the heart of everything we do. This coupled with Rachel founding We Mind the Gap, changing the lives of young people in our communities and leading by treating people as we ourselves would want to be treated.
“There’s been a marked shift in the legal sector’s approach to outsourcing and there’s now a very real appetite to do so, particularly when it comes to finding ways to be more competitive, more efficient and to cater for changing consumer demands”
“I am incredibly lucky to work for such a fast growing business who continue to put customer and employees at the heart of everything we do” 62
What has been the most valuable piece of advice given to you?
Over the years a lot of wise words have helped to shape me, but I think perhaps the most poignant bits of advice have been to believe in myself, have resilience and make things happen. A quote I see often on Instagram sums this up perfectly – ‘the only thing holding you back is yourself’. More recently, our founder Rachel gave me a fantastic piece of advice about how to lead people which I try to keep front of mind, always. Her advice is to ‘Give people clarity, show them what good looks like and then get out of their way and let them fly’. I think that’s a great mantra for business.
If you were not in your current position, what would you be doing?
Before moving into Business Development, I was a Solicitor with Pannone LLP so I suspect that’s what I’d still be doing now. I’ve always been passionate about the importance of the customer experience and workplace culture so I think this would have still come through in my work – I’d probably be championing these issues from within a legal practice, rather than with my Moneypenny hat on.
is Head of Business Development at Moneypenny
Wrigleys Solicitors Court of Protection Service We have extensive experience of working with you to support your clients with matters concerning the Court of Protection. Wrigleys is not a litigation firm therefore we have no bias and our aim is to ensure the best outcome for your client. Our team of specialists deal with various matters that arise following catastrophic injury, such as property purchases and adaptations, issues concerning community care, Court of Protection applications, statutory wills and liaison with the CICA. We are also able to assist with expert witness statements, commenting on Court of Protection deputyship costs. We can act as a professional deputy for your clients both during litigation and afterwards. We are well known and respected nationally in this area of expertise and work with you to achieve the best outcomes for your clients.
• We can act as a professional deputy and have a trust corporation in place to enable us to provide • We are uniquely placed to assist you in this continuing care for your client. Though we do specialist area as we are not part of a litigation firm ensure your client will always have one key and are independent. contact as deputy, being a director of our trust corporation. Ensuring a strong, long-standing • We have experience in driving negotiations with the professional relationship is key and we pride CICA meaning we are often able to redraft clauses of ourselves in that we care, and on building those the trust deed that are in the clients interests. relationships which last a lifetime. • We have one of the largest trust and Court of • We can act as expert witness and provide witness Protection administration teams of any national statements, based on your client’s specific law firm; this team includes tax specialists, trust requirements. specialists and legal experts.
tel: 0114 267 5588 • www.wrigleys.co.uk Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Alternatively write to Wrigleys Solicitors LLP, 3rd Floor, Fountain Precinct, Balm Green, Sheffield S1 2JA.
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