Scotland shuts in the name of technology

Alison Laferla reports

The Scottish law courts closed for business for two days recently in order to demonstrate live transcript and document image technology to the Scottish legal profession.

The series of discussions and demonstrations, which took part in the Supreme Courts, were initiated by Paul Motion, associate at Edinburgh firm Fyfe Ireland. Motion had gained experience of document imaging technology when practising in New Zealand.

"When I came to Scotland, I felt what is happening in other jurisdictions should be brought to the attention of the profession," he said. "I think the pressure for change is there already.

"We have to respond to the needs and expectations of clients. If they're becoming more familiar with technology they will not thank us for creating shelves of lever-arch files when one CD would do."

Although open to the idea, the Scottish courts requested more information and so a series of seminars was organised. Guests included senators of the College of Justice and sheriffs, the Scottish court service, the crown office, advocates and solicitors.

DP Advisers demonstrated their Egami-Legal software, a document imaging system that allows scanned documents to be retrieved and cross-referenced at speed. The documents can be shared by the client, lawyers and counsel and can also be taken into court.

Smith Bernal Reporting demonstrated its LiveNote transcription system which allows words spoken in court to be instantly transcribed onto screen, annotated and saved.

Kelvin McGregor-Alcorn, director of DP Advisers, told delegates that the move towards electronic processing of information was inevitable. "At this stage it must seem a big leap from paper-based documentation to a computerised system," he said. "But the same could have been said before computer-based billing – now law firms could not imagine life without it."

Douglas McQuaid, business development manager at Smith Bernal, said that generally the technology was well received. "There seemed to be quite an interest in the use of technology from scheduling to in the court room," he said.