June 30, 2002


Some time ago, this column contained an obituary for the pioneering legal bulletin board, ‘Link’. This was a dial-up service on which lawyers exchanged news and views and occasionally met up for a drink. It sank before catching the Web wave.

If you want some reassurance that some lawyers at least have a life, some have a sense of humour and some are totally weird, visit ‘RollonFriday’ (, a Web site which provides news, views and gossip on the legal profession. It is a site that verges way beyond the norms of restrained good taste and decency: for that we can be grateful.

Amongst some anodyne comparisons of different law firms, and some restaurant recommendations which change very little, there are some quietly amusing news reviews, which change every week,. Then there is the glorious ‘glamorous solicitor’ in which a photograph of that week’s lucky nominee is taken from his (the successful candidate is usually male) firm’s Web site and posted for public admiration.

Also buried under ‘News’ is the jewel in the crown, the ‘discussion board’. It appears that the cream of the nation’s young and not-so-young lawyers post contributions to random threads which can be informative, witty, surreal and the downright lascivious. I say ‘it appears’ because the point is that the site permits posting under pseudonyms and the contributors can take advantage of anonymity to revel in personas ranging from the mad, to the bad, to the sex-crazed. There are even drinking sessions arranged at which all are, it seems, welcome.

There are discussions of intimate personal problems and there are mass cyber-flirtations. There are, occasionally it seems, some rather dodgy elements who creep in, although the general good sense of the majority of contributors usually manages to slap them down. The consequence of anonymity is of course that nothing is what it seems, it is dangerous to take anything too seriously and a pinch of salt is a useful accessory for the easily provoked.

Reading C&L: XML

I found it difficult to nominate a product placement prize this time, although some of the stuff on XML probably verges pretty close. I should confess that, even now, I’m still none the wiser on what XML actually does and what it will be used for in my daily legal practice (as an IT lawyer) and an explanation of this from someone in words of one syllable would probably be much appreciated.

Reading C&L: Jornada

What I did enjoy in the last issue was Neil Cameron’s paean of praise to his HPO Jornada 568. This is what we are looking for in the realm of technology for law: I really felt as if an independent enthusiast rather than a salesman or jaded product reviewer was communicating real enthusiasm.

One of the quirky things about IT products is how you get used to particular features which have little intrinsic merit whilst not exploring the full potential of a particular bit of kit. For instance, I continue to use a Psion Series 5 for mobile computing because what I actually like is the calculator with its separate notepad, as well as the world map giving the time in different cities. Having read Neil’s article, I feel like investing in something like a Jornada but it will be difficult to break away from what is effectively a £400 calculator.

A man on a train reading Victorian novels on a Pocket PC…

However, the most enduring image from Neil’s article is that of him reading ‘Bleak House’ on the Jornada, in trains and in other moments of respite from IT consulting and product reviewing. Not an easy task but having recently read the paper version I was inspired to have a shot at projecting the case of Jarndyce v Jarndyce into the digital future, following on from updating Bardell v Pickwick last year (C&L, vol 12, issue 3). Consequently, look out for ‘Jarndyce case-managed’, coming soon to a mailbox near you. n

Richard Harrison is a partner at Laytons.