Categorized | Legal IT

Does the future of law firms belong to Digital business structures?

Does the future of law firms belong to Digital business structures?

When it was announced that the high profile human rights and civil liberties set Tooks Chambers was to dissolve, Michael Mansfield QC, head of the set, was typically trenchant about the reasons. “The dissolution of chambers is the direct result of government policies on legal aid” he said. He added: “The government policies led by justice secretary Chris Grayling are cumulatively devastating the provision of legal services and threatening the rule of law…Of all the justice ministers we’ve had, Chris Grayling has been the most intransigent on this issue”

And he is totally unconvinced by the financial arguments, telling the ‘Guardian’ recently that “One of the supreme court judges has pointed out that the cost of legal aid would keep the NHS going for one week. ….. £2bn sounds a lot, but on the one hand, actually for a population of the size we have, it isn’t. And on the other hand, what’s wrong with a rights culture?”

He said that the coalition cuts have caused many lawyers to abandon legal aid work altogether. But thankfully not in his case. Fifteen members of Tooks are to form a new ‘virtual’ chambers which dispenses with the costs of large, central London premises and staff. The Mansfield chambers will function as an electronic hub, its barristers working remotely, hot-desking in a small shared office when necessary. Its plans are designed particularly ‘to support publicly funded practitioners who are committed to continuing the struggle for social justice both inside and outside the courts.’

The Mansfield chambers will be very much in line with the design for virtual legal aid firms made by Christina Grzasko, CEO Anya Designs, to the Otterburn – Ling Report in April. She argues that the basic model for delivering criminal defence services across a large geographical area requires a digitally mature business structure that maximises use of IT and flexible working whilst minimising overheads and fixed staff. It must automate processes that ensure maintenance of quality and risk management whilst
relieving the practise of paper-based workflows.

And she reminds lawyers that whilst it might sound light years away from where they are at the moment, it isn’t. “All firms have the beginnings of the change sitting in the heart of their offices right now plus a team that would welcome at least some of the aspects of change that a virtual firm can provide. Mansfield’s set is right to adopt this way of working if they want to stay in the game and continue to fight for justice in this country.’’

This post was written by:

- who has written 462 posts on Upper Case – The Anya Legal Journal.

Mike Gribbin is a retired Civil Servant with wide experience, including the drafting and implementation of Parliamentary legislation and regulations. He is the editor of “Criminal Offences Handbook”, a uniquely comprehensive guide to more than one thousand ways to fall foul of UK criminal law. He is Editor of the Upper Case Legal Journal and has been writing blog posts for the past eight years.

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