Monthly Archives: October 2009

Is Legal Tech Used To Add Value, Or Cut Cost?

Barnetts solicitors have released an iPhone app that enables you to ask a solicitor for a quote on a conveyancing deal and check how the transaction is going.

For the full story, read the Gazette, here.

There is something about this story that strikes me as odd.

Perhaps it is the futility of apps and widgets which do nothing that you couldn’t do before.  Get a quote from a conveyancer?  How about using that iPhone of yours, or any phone, to, you know, well, phone them?

The Gazette article suggests that other law firms could licence the software.  I don’t get that.  Does that mean that an enquiring client would have to download a similar app to their iPhone from each law firm that they were interested in getting a quote from?

Again, why wouldn’t you just call?

Or are Barnetts saying that they will process the enquiry, from the app, for all licensed conveyancers?  I can’t see me being able to sell it to my firm on the basis that our potential new client enquiries would go through another law firm.  So that can’t be it.

I think the ability to check, via app, on your file and progression is admirable but not if it is to exclude human contact between the client and adviser.  If we go to the app download page here you will see that your app enquiry links to

“…our tracking services, you will be asked to enter your case reference and a password. This will then display your cases key milestones. This information is live from our case management system and you will receive updates via SMS when key milestones are triggered.”

There is a comment also from Richard Barnett, the Senior Partner at Barnetts, which reads;

“‘In the past few years, conveyancers have been challenged to provide the best possible service at the most competitive price. To succeed with this goal, the use of the latest techniques and technologies has to be embraced.’

So, to revisit my opening question, I’m curious, do we innovate legal technology to add value to the client, or cut cost for the provider?

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Filed under Law, Lawyers and Social Media, The Changing Legal Market

C’mon! Let’s innovate!

Wikivorce the UK online divorce community

Wikivorce the UK online divorce community

There is a perception that the pioneers of what Richard Susskind calls “disruptive legal technologies” are on a mission to do just that – disrupt.

I was recently talking at an event which was attended by Ian Rispin, the pioneer and tech ability behind www.wikivorce.co.uk, perhaps the leading independent online divorce community, together with the equally resource rich divorceonline.

I had the impression that there was no agenda to disrupt here at all.  He had simply come up with an idea and gone ahead and implemented it.  He was very modest about his creation and showed an affectionate, almost fatherly concern for the community it hosted and served.

I also had the feeling that he was not concerned about just how great a threat he and his website is perceived as being by conventional legal practices.  There was no lawyer bashing agenda here.

Lawyers; Do not take comfort in this fact. There are plenty of other lawyer bashers out there who long to see the profession taken down a peg or several hundred.  What is more we are currently seeing only the first wave of these “disruptive legal technologies” or communities and to guess what the second wave might look like would be crystal ball gazing.

I am sure we will continue to see more and more innovation.

To close, and to encourage any lawyers out there wringing their hands, fretting about Tesco Law, Web 2.0 and whatever else keeps you up at night, take notice of that last sentence.

“We will continue to see more and more innovation.”

Now, here’s the good news!  There is no monopoly on innovation.  The only reason those pioneers are pioneers is because they did something, they started something, they had the germ of an idea which they then nursed and cared for and it grew strong.  Anyone, yes, even a lawyer, even you, can innovate.

What’s stopping us?

Stop fretting. Stop trying to denounce the changes that are already very well advanced and join in.  Conservative longings for the times gone by aren’t going to help us. It was just that conservatism and perhaps complacency (“Oh they could never replace solicitors”) that probably got us where we are today.

Nor will it help to simply polarise the market into us and them, demonising and denigrating the online providers and their services.  There is room for dialogue, scope for inspiration and collaboration.  Remember, they don’t have the monopoly on innovation.

So c’mon! Let’s innovate.

Now,who’s with me?

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Filed under Law, Lawyers and Social Media, The Changing Legal Market

Google SideWiki – My, that is helpful. Or is it?

“What if you could easily contribute to any webpage and help others” opens the well intentioned trailer from Google for their new Sidewiki project.

Thanks to Jay Fleischman who brought this to my attention via his blog, Legal Practice Pro

Essentially Sidewiki enables other users to attach wiki stickers to your website, or your company’s website.  Invisible wiki stickers that is.  You will not know if you have been stickered unless you install a pair of special glasses, aka the Sidewiki toolbar app, into your browser.

Even then, you have to remember to put on your wiki sticker spectacles to see what has been said.

Is this going to be a problem?  What happens with malicious wiki stickerers?  What remedies are available to wiki sticker victims?

What safeguards will any firm have against a competitor running a diversionary tactic against any other given firm, in any given sector?

For the first time in a long time I find myself feeling a little bit reactionary here.  Perhaps it comes on the back of the criticism I read about Google Wave being a productivity sink – see Robert Scoble’s critique here .  Is this another example of Google introducing stuff that could impact on productivity, `just because it can’?

To what end does Google innovate and introduce, or in the case of Sidewiki, impose these functions?

Will the cavalcade of Social Media Experts be looking at how to leverage your Sidewiki stickers and devising campaigns to do so?

Following Friday’s article on the ability of legal processes to offer protection against defamation, or passing off and fraud, how will Google Sidewiki protect against malicious one off comments?  In what circumstances could persisitant commenting amount to harassment?

Furthermore, as I understand it, Google is saying that it will determine what gets through and what doesn’t by way of adopting an algorithm.  On that basis, does it take on the role of controlling what gets published and could that bring liability back upon their doorstep?

Is it right that an organisation spends a large budget (insert your figure here) in crafting a carefully designed and presented message, only to have it defaced, with special invisible paint, by all and sundry?

So far, if an organisation wanted to embrace web 2.0 sentiments and capability then they had the option to do so by including blogs, their own wiki’s, comments, facebook fan pages and the like.  Many – well, a few –  will have carefully constructed policies determing how they will be monitored and managed.

Many more organisations will have decided they would rather not have that dialogue on the web and that, to date, has been their call, even if we as tech evangelists might disagree with their decision.

What Sidewiki seems to do is to force those companies into the middle of the dancefloor even though they might have preferred to simply hang out in the kitchen of the web 2.0 house party.  Is that appropriate?

And just when did Lawyer1point9 become so conservative?  Normal service will resume shortly.

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Filed under An End To Silo Thinking, General Technology

The relationship between law and tech

It is an interesting day today for musing on the relationship between law and tech.

First was the story about an injunction being served upon a rogue imposter Twitter account.  You can read that story here, from the Guardian.  Interesting to see the machine that is law evolving to adapt to the changing culture.

How would the injunction be enforced though in the face of breach?  Interesting comments can be found also from scotslawyer, attached to that Guardian article.

Secondly, as I write, there is a breaking story about Harry Redknapp, the manager of Tottenham Hotspur, having had his odds slashed with William Hill to evens to be the next premier league manager to lose his job.  Rumours are about that I am not going to repeat here.  But some of the stuff that is being printed about Redknapp, if inaccurate, is going to cause an almighty stink once his lawyers get onto it.  I should imagine the forum moderators are having a next to impossible time trying to keep their messageboards libel free.

How is the law machine going to deal with these kind of wildfire stories in a way which is adequately swift?

There are massive challenges ahead.

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Filed under General Technology, Law, Lawyers and Social Media