SCL Award 1999

March 1, 1999

Not only was the eventattended by SCL Vice Presidents, Lord Justice Saville and Sir Brian Neill andthe Chairman of the Bar but the originator of the Award, Richard Morgan, wasthere too. The Award winner was the Land Registry Direct Access Service but thegreatest winner was IT for lawyers because the quality of the entries wasoutstanding – a long way from the early days of the Award when, as LordJustice Brooke pointed out, the Society had to persuade people to enter.

Geoff Hoon MP, Minister of State at the Lord Chancellor’s Departmentpresented the Award. His presence was particularly welcomed by Lord Justice Brooke whoremarked that it appealed to the Society enormously to have a senior ministerwho was dedicated to IT and IT in the law; Sir Henry described Mr Hoon as ‘oneof us’. The speech by Ed Dean of Lovell White Durrant, Chairman of the judgingpanel, is reproduced below.

Ed Dean

I took on the mantle of chairman of the judging panel for the Society’sAward with a certain amount of fear and trepidation when I discovered that I hadvolunteered to follow on from the sterling work that John Irving had undertakenover the last three years in building the reputation of the award and providingit with the prestige in the legal sector which I believe it justly deserves. Myfear and trepidation turned to absolute terror as the final day for submissionsgot closer and closer and I had only two definite entries. I even got to thestage of collecting application forms from colleagues just in case I might needthem. However, my fears were completely unfounded and we ended up with 54nominations for 37 different products or services, which was well up on thenumber of nominations for last year.

The quality of the entries must give all of us involved with IT in the law agreat deal of confidence in the future of the profession, the Society ofComputers and Law and the Award itself. It seems to me that our message iscertainly getting through and that there are a whole range of suppliers outthere who are now providing some excellent applications aimed specifically atthe legal profession and that a number of law firms are developing uniqueapplications that are greatly benefiting their practices.

The Internet is having a major impact on both our business and our personallives and last year for the first time we offered an online entry service viathe Society’s Web site. This year 50% of our entries were submitted this wayand I can only imagine that it will not be too long before this is the only waywe offer facilities to enter for the Award. It was also quite interesting tonote that 30% of the entries received used the Internet in some very direct wayas part of the mechanism for the application they were describing.

I would like to extend my thanks to all those who took the trouble and timeto enter. It is always a pleasant surprise to win something, but without theefforts of those people who did not make the final shortlist the Award couldnever be the success it is. I know it does not really help but the judges foundit extremely difficult to draw up the shortlist and they were very impressed bythe quality of all the entries, which can only bode well for the future of thelegal profession as a whole. If your nomination did not make it this year,please don’t be put off, there is always next year and even perhaps the yearafter.

This is the third year for the updated Award logo and it is pleasing to seeit being widely used by previous finalists and I hope that those who have beensuccessful this year will also take the opportunity to use the logo on theirmarketing and their presentation material.

This Award could not take place without help and input from a range of verybusy and capable individuals, two of whom are Ruth and Caroline from the SCL,who always provide invaluable assistance in organising the event and who alsoalways seemed to be one step ahead of a rookie like me whenever I phoned up witha request for help. I would also like to thank Gary from the Law Society whoonce again has done an admirable job in organising today’s event and I wouldnot dare get away without mentioning my secretary Paulette from Lovell WhiteDurrant, who actually does all the work while letting me pretend that I am incharge.

I must also thank my fellow judges and I am extremely grateful to FrancesGibb, the Legal Correspondent of The Times, Melissa Hardee, the KnowHow andInformation Partner at Cameron McKenna, John Irving, an independent ITConsultant, Sean Kelly, the Managing Partner at Lamport Bassitt, Professor IanLloyd, the Professor of Information Technology in Law at the University ofStrathclyde and to Simon Monty a Barrister at 2 Crown Office Row. We all had amost enjoyable time judging the Award and it gave all of us a unique opportunityto discuss a whole range of issues covering IT within the legal professionwithout the usual sales pressure from suppliers. We all gained from theexperience and eventually we even managed to agree on the winner.

As I have already mentioned we had a difficult time in deciding on thisyear’s shortlist as there were a number of very strong contenders. As with anycompetition there can only be one final winner, but we do not rank the finalistsin any other order as that would be unnecessary and far too difficult and thepanel might have had to lock themselves way for several days if that had beenour objective. All the finalists will receive a certificate to mark theirachievement and the winner will also receive a trophy. So, strictly in the orderin which they undertook their final presentations to the Award Panel, thisyear’s finalists are:

  1. The Land Registry Direct Access Service from Her Majesty’s Land Registry offers users instant online access to more than 15.5 million registers of title in England and Wales. It is a simple, quick and inexpensive way of obtaining registry information for conveyancing and property purposes. The system can also be used to deliver applications for a range of other services normally requested by post.
  2. SolCase Online from Solicitec is a client facing, flexible and powerful Case Management System. It integrates Case Management with the latest Internet technology to provide the client with instant access to case details. The client can also add new cases and provide further instructions on existing cases via the system.
  3. Axxia Advantage from Axxia Systems which is a web-based reporting tool that represents a new generation of customer orientated applications. It has a number of clear benefits in that a lawyer can schedule reports to run whenever is most convenient via an intermediary server which controls and queues the report requests. These reports can be distributed via conventional e-mail or through a web browser both internally and externally.
  4. Bevan Ashford’s INTERACT is designed to enable them to improve their response times and productivity and to ensure compliance with the stringent timescale set by the new civil justice regime. It saves much wasted time for both the firm’s insurance clients and its own staff by dealing with progress reports and enquiries and recording routine instructions. It also has a variety of aids to assist staff quantify and manage claims.

This is the 25th anniversary of the Society and the 10th anniversary of theAward and on this occasion the Society is very pleased that Geoffrey Hoon, theMember of Parliament for Ashfield and Minister of State at the LordChancellor’s Department has agreed to present the prizes for this year’saward. The Lord Chancellors Department recently launched a consultation paperoutlining a vision for a 15-year strategy for IT and the courts includingconcepts such as virtual court hearings and legal information kiosks in shoppingcentres. I think it would be difficult for us to have found anyone more suitablethan Mr Hoon to present this year’s award.