Professional Societies on the Web

April 30, 2001

Professional societies are well represented on the Web. Delia Venables applies her uniquely well-qualified eye to assess their contributions.

In the December 2000/January 2001 issue, I reviewed the best and most useful legal ‘portals’ to the Web – sites which attempt to provide links and services to lawyers and which become the normal starting point for a session on the Web. I noted at that time that the professional societies also seek that role to some extent, although it is not their whole reason for existence. I suggested that a review of the professional societies could make a useful article at some time in the future – well, here it is.

England & Wales, and also UK-wide Societies

The Law Society at

A few minutes cruising this site gives an indication of the vast amount of material already available – with doubtless more to come. The Law Society has a greater challenge than any other professional society in terms of the mass of information which it possesses in-house and which it would like, in principle, to make available for members and others in the world outside Chancery Lane.

The site is geared up for several different types of viewer – members of the public with a legal problem looking for a solicitor, solicitors themselves looking for information to assist them in their professional work, young people (and their parents) considering the profession as a career, press and journalists looking for background to a current news story and past clients of solicitors who believe that their solicitor has let them down and want to complain. Taking these categories in roughly the same order, the site offers the following:

  • The ability for a member of the public to search for a solicitor by name, area, or specialism and find relevant contact details. This facility can be reached from the main site but is also available with a Web address of its own – . This part of the overall site is the Law Society’s contribution to the marketing of their firms on the Web and the site is apparently widely promoted amongst CABs and other groups relating to legal assistance and advice.
  • The same online directory is of course also of use to solicitors themselves and is a useful resource for everyone involved with the legal profession.
  • Other facilities for visitors include an A to Z of legal topics, a virtual tour of the Law Society premises (with the renting out of rooms as one of the aims), a shop for books and souvenirs and access to the Office for the Supervision of Solicitors.
  • There is a comprehensive section on legal training and the requirements for becoming a solicitor. Some of the Law Society’s printed leaflets are available in pdf format.
  • For solicitors themselves, there is a series of resources collected for ‘Specialisms’ – ADR/Litigation, Civil Litigation, Commercial, Company Law and so on. There is also information about the running of Chancery Lane, the Parliamentary Unit, International Affairs, Practice Management, Training and CPD, Indemnity Insurance and other topics.
  • It is possible for solicitors to amend their practice information online, which ensures that the Solicitors-Online directory is up to date as well.
  • The Gazette is provided online and can be reached from the main site but is also provided at a different address –
  • Press releases are available in full.

Although heavily, and inevitably, very text-based in appearance, the site represents a valiant, and largely successful, attempt to share Law Society information with its various ‘constituents’ and enable them to find what they need. The Law Society’s sites, taken together, provide the most popular UK legal destination on the Web, according to Charles Christian’s Legal Top 25 listing.

The Bar Council at

The site has been redesigned recently and is now a useful and informative site with a clear and simple design rather than being ‘just’ a glossy brochure. The various sections of the site are fully cross linked, which is a useful facility, and which aids different paths through the available information – for a barrister, a student, a solicitor or a member of the public. All these ‘types’ of user will visit this site and my impression is that each type of user would find what they are looking for without too much difficulty.

  • There is full information on the Bar Council itself, including the Committee Structure, its officers and contacts, and its formal role.
  • The Regulatory function is fully covered as well as information on data protection and equal opportunities
    There is also practice-related information, eg on IT.
  • There is a section about barristers and how they work as well as the Inns of Court and the Circuits. This would be the main section for members of the public to find information about the Bar.
  • There is a section about qualifying for the Bar and also about CPD requirements and courses available.
  • The maintenance of the database of CPD courses is shortly to be handled for the Bar Council by Lawzone.
  • There is a good news section covering events relating to the Bar Council and also public statements and proposals relating to barristers.
    There is a section on pro bono work handled by the Bar.
    There is a good set of links to legal resources on the Web and a discussion forum.
    There is a ‘free subscription’ service so that visitors to the site can be informed when particular changes in the site occur.

Overall this is a useful and efficient site from the Bar Council.

The Institute of Legal Executives at

The Institute of Legal Executives was established in 1963 with the support of the Law Society and now has 22,000 members for whom it provides training and support.

The site has been relaunched recently and now offers extensive information on training and also professional news and discussions of professional issues. There is a directory of branches and links to a legal executive recruitment site. The ILEX journal is also online at a different address –

Society for Computers & Law at

SCL exists to encourage and develop both IT for lawyers and IT-related law. There are nearly 3,000 members from all parts of the legal profession as well as practice managers, IT experts, teachers and trainers.

The site has changed and evolved over the several years it has now been in existence and has, in my opinion, steadily improved from a rather whizzy (and annoying) site to start with to one which is now extremely informative, up-to-date and user-friendly.

  • A ‘news’ section (the first page you come to) provides brief descriptions of SCL events and news, government proposals and consultations and significant court cases. Each section has a direct link to a further story on the item or the original report or paper elsewhere.
  • The section ‘About SCL’ contains useful information and also a set of FAQs which are helpful and friendly. There are also full descriptions of officers and contact details.
  • The magazine – the very magazine you are reading now – is online for members and provides an additional way to access the information. (There is a rather clever password system – try it).
  • There is information on the regional groups (although most of these seem rather short of new activities when you look at their pages) and the Scottish Society for Computers & Law (see also under Scotland, below). There are plans to set up a Welsh group and also an Irish group over the next year.
  • There is information on the SCL working groups which cover various particular topics under e-commerce as well as knowledge management, small firms and IT and dispute resolution.
  • There is a section on resources of which some are very good and others are rather out of date, for example, the Year 2000 section, given that it has had no new information added to it since the magic date, could presumably be removed now! (I have a personal suggestion here in that these sections should be subcontracted to individual members with expertise in the relevant areas. This would ensure that the sections are kept up to date).

A new site is apparently planned and will be launched later this year. However, even now, I think the site is pretty good and SCL members should make good use of it.


The Law Society of Scotland at

The Law Society of Scotland provides a practical, straight-forward site offering a great deal of information. They have clearly taken their role of presenting solicitors to the general public seriously and several sections of their site are addressed to this

  • There is a section about the Society and about how the legal profession is organised in Scotland.
    Dial-a-Law is a set of 40 legal topics (Accidents at Work, Adoption, Assault, Bail and so on) which start with a fairly meaty section on the topic chosen and then offer the viewer the chance to select a solicitor for this specialism in any city or town.
  • It is possible to look up any of the 2,387 firms and branches either by name or by locality and it is also possible to search for individual solicitors.
    It is possible to search for an accredited specialist – 520 lawyers – by specialism and area.
    There is an online Help Form (previously only available in a leaflet called ‘Dissatisfied with your Solicitor?’) which allows the public to lodge a complaint about their solicitor directly online.
    For the solicitors, there is a section on the new training regime for solicitors in Scotland with information about the shorter, more skills-based diploma which was introduced in October, and other new aspects of the training regime. This is apparently about to be enhanced with further information about education and training and admissions.
    The Code of Conduct is on the site and Practice Rules and Guidelines for solicitors will be available shortly.
    There is also a chat forum where solicitors can exchange views and keep in contact with other practitioners and a Bulletin Board so that the members can be kept up to date with matters of interest from the Society.
    There is a solicitors-only section, accessed via a password. Firms can advise the Society about changes of address, personnel, etc. and there is a Directory of Services for Conveyancers with information such as retrieval of title deeds. There is also (recently added) a facility for firms to create their own Web site using a simple template which they fill in and submit online.

Overall, the site works well and is quite fast to use.

The Faculty of Advocates (the Scottish Bar) at

The Faculty of Advocates was established by an Act of the Scottish Parliament in 1532. There are 683 members of which approximately 417 are practising advocates; the remaining 266 members include judges, sheriffs, academics and retired members. Senior Counsel or ‘QCs’ make up around one-fifth of the practising membership. There is a particularly fine library, the Advocates Library, which contains materials built up over the last 300 years. The site provides:

History and composition of the Faculty of Advocates
Up-to-date ‘stable’ listings and contact details for Advocates Clerks and deputies
An on-line version of the Faculty Directory
Information to assist practitioners involved in, or considering, Direct Professional Access.

Scottish Society of Computers & Law at

The Scottish Society for Computers & Law (formerly the Scottish Group of SCL) is now a devolved section of the SCL with full power in relation to Scottish matters. It operates as a separate charitable company limited by guarantee. Membership of the SSCL is available only to members of the SCL and members continue to enjoy the benefits of full membership of SCL such as the magazine and Web site. Access is via the ‘Groups’ item in the left hand menu.

At one point, the Scottish section had its own site (as was the original intention for all regional sites) but it was later felt that there should be a common site address for all groups so that devolved members would not miss the facilities and information of the main site.

Despite being a little hard to find, the Scottish part of the overall SCL site provides some good information and obviously represents a lively section of the Society. The site offers information on the structure of the Scottish Society for Computers & Law, its board of directors and events. There is also a very comprehensive list of Scottish legal links called ‘Local Links’ which are well worth visiting in their own right.

Northern Ireland

The Law Society of Northern Ireland at

The Law Society governs the activities of the nearly 2,000 solicitors in Northern Ireland. The present site is two years old now and is about to be replaced by a new one. At the moment, it provides information on the Society, press releases and access to past editions of its magazine, The Writ, in pdf format, as well as information for students on becoming a solicitor.

The Bar Council of Northern Ireland at

The Bar Library currently occupies two floors in the Royal Courts of Justice in Belfast. It is rather more than its name suggests, for, in addition to providing traditional ‘library facilities’, it is the working environment for almost 500 barristers and must cater for all their office and ancillary requirements. The benchers of the Inn of Court of Northern Ireland, the Executive Council and the membership assembled in General Meeting share the governance of the profession.

The site describes the way that barristers work and how they can be briefed, or approached via direct professional access. There is a directory of barristers in pdf format, although this cannot be searched in any way.


The Law Society of Ireland at

The Law Society of Ireland dates back, in its earlier form, to 1773 – the same year as the foundation stone for its premises at Blackhall Place was laid. After various changes in organisation and status, the original body became the Law Society of Ireland in 1830. The Law Society of Ireland is the professional body for over 5,500 solicitor members.

The site is informative and practical in style and contains much useful information.

The opening page contains a quick reference to recent happenings at the Society or in the Irish legal system generally.
The profile section covers the origins, history and organisation of the Society.
The What’s New section covers not only news in the normal sense but also a list of conferences, the Law Society’s recruitment service and complete lists of publications.
The Practice section covers the professional committees of the Society with details of composition and also links to useful materials.
The Regulatory section covers the regulation of the society and also the process of registering a complaint against a solicitor.
There is information on education and training for solicitors and for people wishing to become a solicitor and also a set of members’ services. There is information on the Gazette, although it is not online.
The Library service provides lists of Acts of Parliament passed since 1998 with brief descriptions of the Acts and the commencement dates.
There is a very comprehensive set of Irish legal links under the Library section.
It is not possible to look up a firm or a solicitor on the site at the moment, although there are plans to provide this soon.

Bar Council of Ireland at

There are 1,344 practising barristers in Ireland of which around 218 are Senior Counsel. Most barristers reside in Dublin. Ireland is divided into circuits and, for organisational reasons, barristers are attached to certain circuits.

The present site has been set up by the Law Library of Ireland, although a new and more extensive site is due in a few months. There is information on the history and role of barristers in Ireland and how to qualify as a barrister. There is information on Direct Professional Access, legal associations and the history of the Bar Library, formed in 1815 and now carrying 115,000 volumes as well as modern electronic communications and services.

There is no directory of barristers available on Bar Council’s site but this will apparently be available in June. In the meantime, barrister Kieron Wood (at maintains a list of names, phone numbers and e-mail addresses of all Irish barristers.

Honorable Society of King’s Inns at

The Honorable Society of King’s Inns was established in 1541 and is named after Henry VIII. The Society is the competent authority in the Republic of Ireland for the admission of successful students to the degree of barrister-at-law. The Benchers may disbar barristers at their own request or as may be required by the Professional Practices Committee. In most other matters, it is the council of King’s Inns that oversees the day-to-day management and development of the Society.

The King’s Inns site carries information about its courses: a diploma in legal studies and the part-time course that leads to the degree of barrister-at-law. At present, King’s Inns provides two courses: a diploma in legal studies and the part-time course that leads to the degree of barrister-at-law. The courses are given by members of the practising bar. The judiciary is involved in tutorials, moots, motion lists, and other practical aspects of the profession. Graduates of the degree course are called to the Bar of Ireland by the Chief Justice. The King’s Inns site carries information about its courses and the services it provides for its members as well as the history and architecture of the Inns.

Also on the site are sections about the history of the Inns and the architecture.

Delia Venables is a computer consultant for lawyers. She has a particular interest in the Internet and maintains one of the best used legal Web sites at She also writes the Internet Newsletter for Lawyers. She can be contacted on or 01273 472424.