The Bar Services and IT Committee is presenting, under the direction of Cherie Booth, a workshop on the theme "The chambers of tomorrow – today" at the Bar Conference on 1 October. There will also be a technology and telecommunications trade exhibition.
The Bar is faced with computers, data transmission, video conferencing and the adaptation of work patterns to meet new economic realities. The committee is presenting a play to illustrate the application of telecomms and technology to a number of common situations.
The chairman will be the Rt. Hon Lord Justice Neill. The scenes will be introduced by Heather Scott of BSkyB.
Scene I will look at chambers administration and management. This includes the accurate, computerised logging of accounts and other matters handled in the administration of chambers. A computerised diary system is essential. Not only must clerks be able to have instant and up-to-date access to the diaries of all the members of chambers, but the information must also be available to barristers from home or, for example, by laptop computer while in court.
The Bar has been at the forefront of a pilot scheme for the electronic transmission of court listings by
CLLIX. These features can be incorporated on the hard disk of a PC, and can run in background mode so the PC can be used for everyday word processing tasks etc.
Scene II will be a barrister at home and will show how he can do case preparation and conduct his practice electronically from home. This includes calling up chamber's diary, accessing various library indexes in the Inns of Court and conducting a search of legal materials.
Scene III will demonstrate putting forward a patent application using video conferencing for representation before the Examiner in Munich. The scenario will present an otherwise impossible timetable, the constraint of a low budget, and a tight timetable for counsel.
Scene IV will be a pre-trial conference on medical negligence. This will involve a barrister in London who needs to hold a pre-trial consultation with two university medical experts, both of whom are in different parts of Britain and not available at a common time to travel to London for a conference.
The solution will be the application of video conferencing. The objective is to facilitate a common meeting time between experts. The cost saving and efficiency is not restricted to travel costs. If necessary several sites can be multi-linked.
Scene V will involve the discussion of a criminal matter. Cyril Baldwin, governor of HMP Shrewsbury, will be involved in the discussion.
Scene VI will concern a research topic on employment law, taxation and European and national laws. Two barristers will use various on-line research systems, such as LEXIS in LIX, together with other facilities available on disk such as CCH taxation, and various noter-uppers.
The committee is conscious that technology is not justified for its own sake – it must have a practical benefit and application.
The overall aim of this workshop is to provide the evidence to support this contention. Those who attend should ask themselves the question: "Without this, can I successfully provide the professional service which I seek to achieve in my practice?"
There will be a comprehensive trade exhibition. This will deal with a full range of the technological services, some of which have been highlighted within the presentation.
John Horne is with the Bar Council.