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IT: the proficiency and the gaps

14 November 16

Introducing the findings of the Society’s first Technology Survey Report on the profession’s use of, and needs relating to, IT

by Irene Sun

Usage of technology and cybersecurity concerns in the legal field was the focus of the Law Society of Scotland’s Technology and Cybercrime Conference, held on 26 October in Glasgow.

Chaired by Helena Brown, partner and head of intellectual property, commercial and data at HBJ Gateley, speakers included cybersecurity and business resilience experts as well as presenters on the world of big data, and the latest developments in the Scottish courts’ digital innovation programme.

The purposes of the conference, as Helena Brown mentioned, were discussing solicitors’ views on and usage of technology, raising awareness of cybercrime risks, and providing the best possible guidance to aid solicitors safeguard their business. To achieve the aim of producing “proposals that would support change within legal firms, while also reviewing the potential of new technology to promote access to justice,” the Society commissioned Ipsos MORI to conduct a survey amongst members; there were 672 responses.

Examination of the Society’s October 2016 Technology Survey Report, published to coincide with the conference and which analyses the data received, brings out three particular results and concerns:

  • a general need of support in using technology efficiently;
  • members’ uncertainty in managing cyber security for business (42% of respondents), and
  • the lack of cybercrime reporting (35% of respondents).

Mixed picture

This survey provided insights on members’ awareness of technology resources, but also the ways in which these resources are utilised on a daily basis. It found that 92% of solicitors use internet and 59% use smartphones for business daily. Views on the impact of technology on their business were generally positive, as 81% marked either the “very positive” or “fairly positive” categories. When asked “What areas of your business, if any, do you feel would benefit the most from the application of technology?”, 76% responded “process improvement and therefore greater efficiency”, and 61% “communication with clients”.

However, when asked: “Still thinking about the technological challenges that you face, what impact, if any, has this had on your day-to-day work?”, 50% of respondents marked “tasks are taking longer than they should have”. Drawing from these two responses, it is highly likely that equipping members with technology but not providing sufficient support in training may hinder work productivity.

Similarly, 53% of respondents indicated that they had not carried out or used any of eight listed digital practices in the previous four weeks; these included filing statutory documents and notices online, submitting court and tribunal documents online, exchanging missives online, using online conveyancing platforms, using smartcard as online identification, and using online dispute resolution platforms.

This result suggests, although members recognise the potentials in using technology for client communication, the routine usage of technology is not as practised in actuality. As Helena Brown stated: “There may be better ways to advertise online services and provide training to solicitors.”

That idea is further supported by the fact 63% of trainee solicitors who responded had not carried out any of the listed practices either. It is worthy of note that 35% and 34% of respondents believed they would benefit from data protection and cyber security training respectively.

Training need

The results of the survey, and the conference discussions, suggest a need for training on technological fluency; with training, solicitors and those still in training should become adept in utilising technology for maximum efficiency and convenience.

Most importantly, Cybersecurity was a key issue for the solicitors surveyed. Cybersecurity was identified by 42% as their biggest technological challenge. Although 35% of respondents had not reported instances of cybercrime, 80% believed there were existing contingency plans for breaches in security, and 90% did not click on suspect links, demonstrating that resource awareness is not the only remedy. Through informing members not only of resources but also preventive practices and steps to take when cybercrime occurs, cybersecurity issues and their impacts can be reduced. The Society is therefore determined to increase awareness of security issues as part of our technology plan which should include support through training.

Irene Sun is currently undertaking an internship with the Law Society of Scotland which includes work on the technology audit of the solicitors’ profession


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