E-Business Basics for Law Firms

August 31, 2003

The books on the shelves in my office can be divided into three categories: IT technical reference books, legal practice management books and lastly law books. The most useful guides tend to be the ones that at least have some nodding acquaintance with the other categories. Christina Archbold already appears on my shelves as IT consultant for The Law Society’s annual Software Solutions Guide, and this book will reside next to other Law Society Publishing titles such as Managing Cyber-Risks by Rupert Kendrick.

For those who are new to Internet technology, this book starts with a carefully written concise account of the history and practice of e-business, with a focus on the recent activities of law firms on the Web. It is hard to gauge who this account is aimed at – for those familiar with Delia Venables’s work, or The Law Society’s own online (free) IT guides, don’t expect anything new.

The main part of the book takes the form of guidance for the development and implementation of an e-business strategy and design. Most relates to Web and e-mail activities. For those who have managed IT projects before, the section might be a useful summary of the perils and pitfalls to avoid. For those with experience of other aspects of a law firm, it might help transfer those skills into the IT arena. The section offers best returns to those who are management novices.

For a book published by The Law Society, it is surprising that I found no reference to the Guide to the Professional Conduct of Solicitors. In this day and age of increasing regulation on client care and money laundering, this is a serious omission. Although the Data Protection Act gets a mention, and the importance of accessibility is highlighted, no reference is made to other consumer regulations that are key to “B2C” e-business transactions. These are the areas in which (in my experience) IT consultants need the most guidance. They are often more than competent at designing and implementing IT solutions for the general market-place, but few have the experience of dealing with our regulated field of work.

Other related titles from the publisher include a CD with examples and precedents. This book, however, does not. Without at least an example of an IT tender document, or consultancy agreement or SLA, the inexperienced reader may struggle to convert the theory into practice.

The book is published in paperback by The Law Society, 183pp, £29.95.

ISBN 1 85328 7520

Keith Arrowsmith is an Associate in IT/IP with HLW Commercial Lawyers, Sheffield.