Towards 2000: Bristol Fashion

January 1, 2000

A broad sweep through e-commerce, strategic planning,case management and the Y2K, and the even broader perspective supplied byProfessor Stephen Molyneux, made for an interesting day: something for everyoneand quite a lot for most. A positive and intelligent audience seemed engaged bythe fare put before them and showed a great deal of interest in the variousstands at the exhibition.

The day was dominated by e-commerce since it reared its head on manyoccasions, not just during John Irving’s presentation on the subject (which isreported separately) but also in the context of Andrew Levison’s exhortationto ‘organise, rationalise and profIT’ and in Stephen Molyneux’s glimpseinto the future. It also showed its impact in the questions and focus of themany gathered for the sessions.

Fresh from giving a presentation before more than a thousand in the USA,Grant Thornton’s Andrew Levison gave a talk which was full ofrazzamatazz and whipped through an enormous amount of material. It wasentertaining and informative stuff. He was partly concerned to sell the virtuesof IT but was also keen to stress that mere acquisition was not enough. He hadattractive tales of an increase of 15% in the bottom line where onscreentime-recording was implemented sensibly, but he also had a nightmare tale of afirm planning to provide 2,500 fee earners with the latest version of Wordwithout training. The emphasis was on ‘train, train, train’ but noassumptions should be made about ability levels, as Andrew observed few newdrivers will do well in Formula One. Andrew even managed to cover knowledgemanagement, quoting with approval the view that ‘learning faster than yourcompetitors may be the only sustainable competitive advantage’.

David Riggall of R&B Associates took on the onerous task ofcovering case management. Again there was great deal to cover and David wentfrom the basics to the greater technicalities. Any attentive listener would havefelt much better equipped to devise or improve their strategy for casemanagement. As David concluded, there is an appropriate system and a right andbest for every firm, but there were no easy answers – identifying the rightsystem required painstaking analysis and an open mind.

It would be impossible to do justice to Professor Stephen Molyneux’spresentation in the space available: virtual private practice, integrated globalcommunications and a shiny new world (his slides can be viewed via the SCL Webpage). While it looked at what IT means for the future of civil justice, it dida great deal more – providing a review of the potential for change in societyas a whole. Stephen Molyneux is from the ICT Research Centre at the Universityof Wolverhampton and is involved in a major trial of the use of IT to expand theparticipation of the public in the justice system, and the legal informationavailable for the public, in Telford. We hope to have a fuller account of thatin a later issue. It was a tribute to his presentation that it provoked a largenumber of thought-provoking questions and, despite his claimed fears, it wasclear that his audience was more interested in the scenario he painted thanterrified and vengeful.

Leading legal IT commentator, Charles Christian had the distinction ofbeing the last speaker on Y2K before the event (or, as he suspects, thenon-event). He offered so much good solid advice that I tremble to repeat it: itwould be far too close to ‘I told you so’ and equally unwelcome. Whether youread this before or after 31 December, advice to refrain from introducing newsoftware until March and the especially attractive advice to throw a ‘wesurvived’ party in early January remains apposite. Charles Christian is anentertaining speaker and I confess that I have taken particular note of one ofhis lighter warnings for the future: according to the ancient Mayan calendar,time runs out on Sunday 23 December 2023 – I shall not bother to shop forChristmas that year.

With a select, but seemingly busy, group of exhibitors to fill in the pausesbetween presentations, this was another successful SCL event – and I am surethe delegates left Bristol anxious, but much better equipped for the yearsahead.