August 31, 2005

It is good to find causes for optimism as the awful realisation dawns that the nights are drawing in. The last couple of weeks produced a few positive reasons to think that IT in the law is making headway, and that SCL’s role is being appreciated.

My first source of optimism is the massive rise in the number of SCL members and other visiting our site. It is always good to see one’s work recognised – at least it is when you have confidence in it. Much of the increase derives from the success of recent SCL meetings – the topics and speakers have gone down so well that there has been the push to create Webinars and a fair amount of site traffic is to pursue or investigate the Webinars. But astonishing numbers are looking at the online articles too. I suspect that the day cannot be far off when the many of our readership will see our latest issue arrive on their colleague’s desk and be able to say “I read that last week” with some conviction – some do so already.

A further boost was given by a series of visits to the BAILII site. While I think that the site design still has an air of the 1950s about it (although, coming from me, that is not necessarily a complaint), I found everything I was looking for with the minimum of fuss. Recent cases which would once have been discovered only on the proprietary database of the great publishing giants were all present. That is a real step forward and those concerned (and I suspect that we must include the judiciary and their support staff as well as the staff of BAILII itself) deserve to be congratulated. (And I am sure that BAILII will not object it I remind readers that they are always looking for more and more secure funding.)

It was also a lift to have the opportunity this week to post on the SCL Web site the latest edition of the TCC Guide, the guide to practice in the Technology and Construction Court. That Mr Justice Jackson asked that it be made available to SCL members was a nice moment of recognition for SCL (and especially for SCL member and consultee on the Guide, Clive Freedman). But my optimism was more because that form of distribution is the right way to proceed, and progress. The emphasis when distributing official documents now should be on widening access, something which free electronic distribution makes possible.

This month has also seen the publication of revised Law Society e-mail guidelines. While it still contains the words “It is important that firms consider having a written e-mail policy” (which I described some time ago as weak guidance when what is needed is a statement of obligation), it does at least show that there is an effective mechanism for review. The right changes will surely come.

Finally, the “final” draft of the Practice Direction on the use of IT in Civil Proceedings was sent off to the DCA on 8 July. The fact that the DCA has indicated that it is prepared to take this document on shows the admirable work of the LiST Group (and the redoubtable Mr Freedman) in a good light. Perhaps the time for optimism on that one is when it is implemented but I was on a roll.

Laurence Eastham