With the Ministry of Justice keen to make the most of London’s courts as an exportable asset, it was only a matter of time before the technology gurus descended.
At the head of the Commercial Court sits Mrs Justice Gloster who has been making use of cloud computing technology to help manage the mammoth Berezovsky v Abramovich litigation.
Step forward Graham Smith-Bernal of Opus 2 International, who won the job to deliver the first cloud computing system to be used by the High Court.
Smith-Bernal says he first met with Addleshaw Goddard, which is representing Boris Berezovsky, and Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom, representing Roman Abramovich, last April, six months before the trial began. Gloster J also attended the meeting, with an eye on how she might make use of the technology.
They were looking for a central depository that would make it easier to manage the caseload.
The end result was the MagnumCloud, a system that enables the parties and the judge to have secure access to transcripts of evidence as well as all related documents, including all research and related case law at any point from anywhere in the world. Footnotes can be hyperlinked to supporting evidence and, in filmed arbitrations, witness evidence can be streamed.
One Essex court senior clerk Darren Burrows, who is clerk to Berezovsky’s counsel Laurence Rabinowitz QC, says: “There are a number of similar products out there, but from the trial team point of view, this helps manage the documents in a central fashion.”
Others are less convinced. One clerk questions whether highly sensitive documents should be held online.
“Clients, I think, would be quite concerned if we started talking about keeping their documents on clouds,” the clerk says. In a highly sensitive political case such as Berezovsky, the need for tight security arrangements is acute.
Opus 2 International director Steve Fleming, who helped develop the software, responds: “We have strict process controls and controls around adding people into the system. It’s a three-phase process, signed off by a second person here after we’ve spoken to our contact at the firm and got it in writing that they’re able to open it up to a third party.”
There is no doubt that cloud computing could change the way court users interact with their own teams and their clients. The Berezovsky trial was a good testing ground and one that proved it could be utilised to the benefit of the parties. Costs aside, this is groundbreaking stuff for London’s courts.