Scottish Group: Internet Workshop

April 30, 1998

Twenty five or so members of SCL joined forces with more thansixty members of Perth Court CPD for two hours of essentially practical adviceabout developing and using Internet and other IT applications, much of itexperienced based. The two speakers, David Semple of Semple Fraser and JohnMackenzie of Carltons had previously given talks in SCL’s Scottish GroupProgramme.

Both speakers are to be congratulated on resisting the temptation to pile upbefore their audience a dazzling array of high tech tricks and trophies.Concentrating on the realistically possible, the achievable, the desirable andthe practical, the speakers delivered their message with minimum use of jargonand excellent overheads. While about a third of the audience had surfed the net,only three hands went up to providing a website: two of these were the speakers,and the other that of the Director of Administration of the Law Society ofScotland (and his only launched in the previous week!).

David Semple’s talk, entitled To Web or not to Web, described his ownexperience in establishing his firm’s website, the impetus for which had comefrom the firm’s participation in the birth of the Alliance for InteractiveMedia Law, a transnational group of French, US and British lawyers. There is nosubstitute for first-hand experience and it was interesting to have thismeasured by the speaker against what the text books say. Irrespective of payoff, he advised not to be put off. It is important to be a participator and togain the experience. He concluded that given attention to planning, carefulconsideration of content and the help of a good designer, a website offered theopportunity for any firm to project itself as effectively as one of the mainLondon players.

John Mackenzie expanded on the opportunities offered by the Internet andother IT applications. But first, he took his audience back to basics. It wasessential to think about the firm’s existing systems and how they would changebefore going near a computer. IT strategy is essentially about looking atsystems and then, and only then, about considering the technology. If thesesteps are not taken, then time and money will be wasted.

He then moved to the uses of IT within the firm (e-mail, word processing,database applications, the advantage of combining word processing with use ofdatabases, estate agency, time management, and use of the Internet) stillfinding time via a visit to the SCL Scottish Home Page (mercifully updated byGo-Interactive that very day) to touch on some of the developments of the future- e-commerce, client access to work in progress, the lawyer as informationprovider and the death of the typist. The latter, I strongly suspect, was themost difficult concept of all for the audience to assimilate.