Huge response to Bar IT training questions

THE BAR Council has reported an "overwhelming" response to a survey designed to gauge the level of computer know-how in the profession and help it devise a strategy to beat technophobia in chambers

The questionnaire, sent out with the Bar Council's newsletter, Bar News, prompted 50 replies within a week, with more arriving as The Lawyer went to press.

The answers will help the Bar Council's Bar services & IT committee devise a series of tutorials on issues such as electronic libraries, video conferencing, e-mail and the Internet, litigation support, document scanning, creating a Web site, spreadsheets and databases.

"The response to the questionnaire has been completely overwhelming," said Owen Davies, committee vice-chair.

"One typical response was from a person who had owned a computer for three years yet not learned to use it."

Davies added that the committee would prepare the curriculum with help from ex- perienced teachers to ensure a good connection between "computer anoraks and law anoraks".

"There is an obvious need for this service, because the needs of barristers are very particular and because the times of most tutorials are usually out of the question for them," he said. "This will be very much an evening and weekend thing."

Regular evening courses for beginners, short courses for the computer literate, and one-off demonstrations of products are proposed by the committee.

Davies also reiterated calls from the criminal Bar for a thorough network of video conferencing facilities to be installed in prisons.

He said the Home Office was refusing to install the equipment in prisons, and described the Lord Chancellor, Lord Mackay, as "too blinkered and short-sighted to realise that to install this would save legal aid money".

"If I visit a client in prison then I can write that day off because of the time it takes to go there and back," he said.