Working party set up to identify electronic issues

Fennell Betson reports

The Society for Computers & Law is examining the future of electronic communications in the profession.

A working party, chaired by James Behrens of 13 Old Square, is to report on the findings in June.

A questionnaire on the extent and type of communication currently in use in the legal world is being sent to the society's 1,600 members and others.

The working party also wants submissions from those involved in the law and who come into contact with lawyers, such as clients, litigants, experts and other professionals.

The aim is to identify the electronic services "most useful" to the profession and the suppliers "most able" to provide such services, says the society.

It will also look at the need to improve technology. The working party will make recommendations. Behrens says: "I believe the results will be a guide to all aspects of electronic communications, for all areas of the legal profession."

He feels undertaking this work is important. "Investing in this area is expensive for users. But it will also act as a guide to suppliers as to where they should put their research and development resources."

The questionnaire examines the range of email products available and asks about use of on-line services and electronic data interchange, as well as confidentiality and loss of information issues.

SCL joint-chair Neil Cameron says that lawyers are starting to exploit the potential of electronic communication. Increasingly they have PCs on their desks with access to internal email: "The society hopes that the report will accelerate the adoption of electronic communication by lawyers."

The members of the working party include John Horne of the Bar Council, Russell Jones & Walker partner Paul Brenells, Jon Gould of Cripps Harries Hall and Bird & Bird partner Graham Smith.

* The SCL and the Centre for Commercial Law Studies have published 'A guide to the legal implications of document image processing systems'. It looks at the technical developments and at the evidential, copyright and data protection issues these systems pose. The guide also includes a brief reference to the position in a number of European jurisdictions. The guide costs u30 (u25 for members) and details are available from the SCL on 0117-923 7393.