Solicitors grasp the Net

Anthony Middleton finds out how lawyers are making the most of cyberspace

The arm of the law has always been long, but it now seems to reach far into the ether. A few weeks ago, London solicitors Schilling & Lom responded to threats that defamatory material about a client was about to be distributed on the Internet by obtaining a High Court injunction against someone known only by their two e-mail addresses.

The recipient of the injunction was foreign, but the firm successfully argued that given the nature of the Net, any breach of the injunction abroad would bring the matter under British jurisdiction.

This was not only a sign that the forces of law and order are moving into cyberspace, but that lawyers generally are beginning to grasp the possibilities of the Net.

About 45 firms of solicitors and chambers have Net sites. Many are simply brochures put up by an enthusiast member of staff which offer a basic idea of the firm's specialities.

Others are more ambitious. The commercial lawyers Rowe and Maw set up their site in May. It features detailed news bulletins and articles on specialist legal areas. Rowe's marketing director, Chris Pullen, says: "The purpose of the Net is to be interactive rather than just provide a dumping ground for useless information. We want to encourage business and provide commentary on legal issues. This is good for the firm's profile."

Mr Pullen admits that while the firm has not gained any customers, it has had some feedback, much of it from students looking for jobs. The firm sees the Net as a marketing tool rather than a serious aid to the daily work of the firm's lawyers.

Barrister Nick Lockett, who specialises in computer and online law, says his work is vastly speeded up by the Net. He often handles cases in which solicitors approach him via e-mail. "A major handicap in the UK is that official law reports cannot be put on the Net as they are copyright of the Lord Chancellor. Despite that, a few barristers are speeding up their practice through the Internet."

He is helping to the Internet Lawyers Association to train lawyers to use the new technology as well as advising the Government on how the Net should be regulated.

Viveca Cameron, an independent criminal barrister, created the site Court On The Web as a free service. It explains how tribunals and courts operate and offers basic advice for witness and victims. "No other site covered this for the lay person, and I am keen on people knowing how the system works," she says. "It also helps me in research by putting me in contact with other people." However while she can vent her spleen over new legislation on the page, as a barrister she cannot give free advice by e-mail.

This is available, however, from a number of sources on the Net. The newsgroup, uk.legal, which is an open forum often features people asking for, and getting, advice from a number of lawyers. But to get to this you often have to wade through vitriolic abuse directed at lawyers and the paranoid ramblings of conspiracy theorists.

More specialised advice comes from Birmingham firm, Tyndallwoods, which helps community groups online and among others, there is a group of lawyers specialising in the law as it relates to, of all things, horses, which will give a free opinion.

Delia Venables, a computer consultant, recently conducted a survey of law firms on the Net. She found that while some had spent about pounds 150 to get an online presence, one, Jeffrey Green Russell in London, spent pounds 50,000 using a professional designer. "There is still confusion over the significance of the Net. Some are totally oblivious; others realise it is going to become indispensable."

Graham Ross, founder of the Allied Lawyers Response Team, a network of personal injury lawyers, has been online for over a year. This, he says, is an integral part of his business particularly when looking for scientific evidence for multiple actions. "It has revolutionised research for multiple actions by giving access to electronically published data all over the world."

Mr Ross has created panels of online scientists to deal with types of injury. In the past six months about 30 cases have come to him through the Net. He is unabashed about encouraging whistle-blowers to approach him on the Net. "People call us ambulance-chasers and say there is too much litigation. I believe there is not enough."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Bianca Miller and Katie Bulmer-Cooke are scrutinised by Lord Sugar's aide Nick Hewer on The Apprentice final
tvBut Bianca Miller has taken on board his comments over pricing
Life and Style
Approaching sale shopping in a smart way means that you’ll get the most out of your money
life + styleSales shopping tips and tricks from the experts
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
Elton John and David Furnish exchange marriage vows
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
News
in picturesWounded and mangy husky puppy rescued from dump
Sport
David Silva, Andy Carroll, Arsene Wenger and Radamel Falcao
football
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Service Engineers



£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Service Engineers ...

Recruitment Genius: Project Director / Operations Director

£50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an incredible opportunity for a ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator

£16000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Administrator is requir...

Recruitment Genius: EWI / IWI Installer

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of design...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'