Lawyers deal with an incredibly high volume of documents on a day to day basis.
Each case will have its own paperwork and files, usually containing confidential and therefore valuable information.
Whilst some law firms are becoming increasingly dependent on digital tools many still regularly rely on paper.
In fact, you will be hard pressed to find a law firm in the UK that is not filled to the brim with paperwork. With all this paperwork being produced some law firms are struggling to maintain their current legal document management systems, and indeed their shortcomings have recently come to the attention of justice, secretary Michael Gove.
The newly appointed justice secretary and Lord Chancellor has embarked on a campaign to create a more egalitarian legal sector, suggesting that top lawyers should offer their services more readily to those who have been unable to afford them in the past.
Gove has suggested that the way law firms process information is also contributing to the stratified and antiquarian nature of the UK justice system.
Gove has argued that the large volumes of paperwork that legal teams still rely on is leading to delays and has urged firms to reconsider their information processing strategies, stressing that the digitisation of legal documents could lead to a more efficient execution of justice.
Gove has stated his belief that legal information should be exchanged more efficiently, suggesting this could be achieved via email or conference calls.
Gove is hoping to modernise legal information processes with a £700 million government subsidy.
However, Goves’ suggestions have so far been coolly received by London law firms, with some arguing that many lawyers already offer a lot of their time for free legal aid.
On the other hand, a number of senior lawyers have welcomed Goves’ plans to digitise the justice system, although some have warned that sufficient funds will be absolutely vital if the plans are to have any chance of being implemented.
Others have also expressed worries over security risks, believing that confidential data might be more vulnerable when it is in a digital format. This concern is undoubtedly justified, with data breaches featuring in UK headlines regularly these days.
Further breaches could be minimised if those in the legal profession are willing to incorporate an information management strategy that prioritises the safeguarding of confidential data. Given the legal sector’s reputation for scrupulous confidentiality, this shouldn’t be much of a problem.
One of the most senior members of the legal profession, Lord Justice Leveson, is a staunch advocate of improving the efficiency of the courts’ information processes.
Leveson has argued that more digital tools should be used during court proceedings and that in some instances the public should be able to partake in legal processes remotely. Already in recent years there has been a push to try and move some of the more ‘low-level’ criminal cases, such as tax evasion, away from the courts.
Clearly, there are ongoing calls for change and it is perhaps only a matter of time before the UK’s legal system dives head-on into the digital age. Back in 2013 the coalition government pledged to invest £160 million for the digitisation of UK courtrooms, but even now the discussion over the legal sectors handling of information continues to rage on.
The fact that such a pledge was made during a time of austerity demonstrates that the government is prepared to prioritise this issue and no doubt will expect law firms across the country to do the same.
Law firms and other sectors are increasingly under pressure to improve their information management processes.
Many businesses are currently remodelling their information management strategies as a result of such demands, with the aim to make their operations more efficient and compliant. It would seem the UK’s legal sector is now being urged to follow suit.