From the Editor’s Chair

November 1, 1998

It would be niceto observe in October that the issues it raises have had such a high profilethat lawyers in England and Wales will have fully digested its content and areeven now completing the finishing touches to their responses – my impression isthat this does not quite fit the reality.

The civil practitioner can be forgiven if the prospect of the Civil JusticeIT Strategy Development Group producing, in April 1999, a 5-15 year IT strategyfor the civil justice system is not top of the agenda. The fact is that too manyare still trying to get round to thinking about the Woolf reforms whichwill take effect at that time. I fear that directing civil practitioners’attention to civil.justice is like telling a full back to admire thehorizon as the All Black pack descends upon him. It is as well to make theeffort nevertheless – the issues raised in the paper are fundamental to manyaspects of legal practice. For example, should lawyers fees relate to the timespent on the case, is there a need for a virtual advice worker accessible viathe Web, what technology is needed in court, what assistance can IT provide inorder to avoid disputes?

It would be a pity to wake to the first morning after you felt you hadmastered Woolf, and find that you are to be replaced by a virtual advice worker.More seriously, the quality of the final proposals, even those emanating fromthe eminent members of the Civil Justice IT Strategy Development Group, isaffected by the quality and quantity of the responses they receive. Thetemptation is to let others make their views known and hope for the best. Whathappens next is predictable from past exercises the few who will bother torespond are to some extent unrepresentative by virtue of their enthusiasm and,when concrete proposals are brought forward, whole swathes of the professiondeclare them unworkable and are surprised that the Lord Chancellor did not ringthem personally for an opinion (`I could have told him for nothing’).

There are three other good reasons for getting a copy of the paper. One isthat it is remarkably easy reading and beautifully designed. The second is thatit is free. The third is that some of the issues raised are going to require apolicy decision soon – probably well before the five-year strategy period bites.If you doubt the last point, turn to LaurieWest-Knight’s piece on p4 of this issue and see the range of changes whichmight affect the courtroom in the immediate future – and courtroom technology isjust one piece of a complex jigsaw.

Copies of the paper and a summary may be obtained from Dominic Hartley,Selborne House, 54-60 Victoria St, London SW1E 6QW (e-mail:,tel: 0171 210 8744). The paper may be viewed at the LCD website: