10:57, May 30 670 0

2017-05-30 10:57:08
Chambers goes paperless to save £350,000 a year

St John’s Buildings has implemented technology to go paperless and save up to £350,000 per year.

The barristers chambers, which is understood to be the first to go fully paperless, developed a cloud-based legal document sharing tool with software provider Advanced.

The tool allows users to digitise documents, making them easier to produce and access. Barristers can work collaboratively on them with their clients even when there is no internet connection, while the storage of legal files electronically will enable lawyers and clients to have 24-hour access to their documents.

St John’s Buildings CEO Chris Ronan said: “St John’s Buildings has long been recognised for its innovative approach to the delivery of advocacy services. The decision to introduce electronic document management comes as we seek to modernise the way we work in line with the digital revolution taking place across the legal sector and to dramatically reduce our own environmental footprint.

“The introduction of ‘less-paper’ working gives our barristers, who are traditionally mobile workers, the ability to service clients in a secure and flexible environment, while enhancing the speed and reliability of that service.”

Last year, The Lawyer’s UK 200 Business Services report highlighted the rise of technology in the agenda for law firms, with many setting up technology-specific innovation teams and R&D budgets.

The recently merged CMS has employed technology Brainspace to speed up the process of data analysis and reviews in litigation and arbitration investigations, while Clifford Chance signed up artificial intelligence provider Kira Systems to analyse the text in contracts.

However, it may be that law firms are leading the way in terms of innovation. A recently conducted online survey by the Bar Standards Board (BSB) into the provision of legal services by barristers found that the traditional business model was still dominant.

The survey, conducted online in September and October of last year, found that few survey respondents “are operating significantly differently from the traditional model of delivery”. Technology is seen as an “enabler” rather than “the main means of delivery of legal services”.

The report said that more than 90 per cent of the respondents did not use a virtual assistant technology such as algorithm-based programmes to provide automated legal advice, although online case management systems were more common. It went on to highlight that cloud computing systems could significantly cut costs.

BSB Director General Vanessa Davies said: “This research tells us that some innovation is happening in traditional chambers as well as through new business models…The chambers model seems likely to continue to serve consumers well in the future but our role as the regulator is also to enable barristers who do want to innovate to do so, through flexible regulatory arrangements.”

Potential reasons for the apparent lack of enthusiasm in developing technology in chambers are the risk of cybercrime, the cost of IT systems and their upkeep, as well as the risk of a “disconnect” in the barrister-client relationship.