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
Voices
Stephanie first after her public appearance as a woman at Rad Fest 2014
voices

Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol
art'Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' followed hoax reports artist had been arrested and unveiled
Voices
Oscar Pistorius is led out of court in Pretoria. Pistorius received a five-year prison sentence for culpable homicide by judge Thokozile Masipais for the killing of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp
voicesThokozile Masipa simply had no choice but to jail the athlete
Life and Style
tech

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
Russell Brand at an anti-austerity march in June
peopleActor and comedian says 'there's no point doing it if you're not'
Arts and Entertainment
Sister Cristina Scuccia sings 'Like a Virgin' in Venice
music

Like Madonna, Sister Cristina Scuccia's video is also set in Venice

News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
James Blunt's debut album Back to Bedlam shot him to fame in 2004
music

Singer says the track was 'force-fed down people's throats'

Life and Style
The Tinder app has around 10 million users worldwide

techThe original free dating app will remain the same, developers say

News
news

Endangered species spotted in a creek in the Qinling mountains

News
Bryan Cranston as Walter White, in the acclaimed series 'Breaking Bad'
news
News
peopleJust weeks after he created dress for Alamuddin-Clooney wedding
Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

Life and Style
health

Some experiencing postnatal depression don't realise there is a problem. What can be done?

Arts and Entertainment
Gotham is coming to UK shores this autumn
tvGotham, episode 2, review
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

Senior Pensions Administrator

£23000 - £26000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery NurseI am currently...

KS2 Teacher

£21000 - £34000 per annum + Excellent rates of pay, CPD, Support : Randstad Ed...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery nurse required for ...

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album