The UK moves towards digital solutions in law as new online court is set up to deal with monetary claims of up to £25,000.
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The future of legal services in the online era

Posted by: Laurence Simons 01/08/16
The future of the legal market is a theme of discussion prevalent in most, if not all, legal circles currently and while AI remains a highly debated topic of contention the potential of legal services making the transition online is also dividing opinions.

A long awaited report on the future of civil courts in England and Wales was published at the end of July with the recommendation that a new online court is set up to deal with monetary claims of up to £25,000. The new court will require ‘minimum’ assistance from lawyers and will be set up with its own ‘user friendly’ rules. Lord Justice Briggs’ report said the online court would eventually become the compulsory forum for resolving cases within its jurisdiction.

Briggs acknowledged the concerns of many legal professionals, including doubts that users will receive justice, the exclusion of lawyers and that £25,000 is too high a threshold. However he noted that “if substantially implemented then the essentially high quality of the civil justice service provided by the courts of England and Wales will be greatly extended to a silent community to whom it is currently largely inaccessible.”

The report comes at a time when cloud-based legal practices with highly competitive price structures are beginning to emerge around the world often with the aim of challenging the behind the scenes costs associated with ‘bricks and mortar’ firms. One such firm, Online Lawyers NZ, also provides access to a substantial amount of free, general information about legal issues and aims to make legal representation affordable to small and medium sized businesses.

Increasing access to justice is a key consideration for many technological advances in the legal market, yet many in the profession remain concerned about the potential impacts that online services, such as the proposed court and the emerging trend of cloud based practices, may have on long term job availability. Much like artificial intelligence this emerging trend is unlikely likely to push lawyers out of a job. Rather it’s more likely that the specific responsibilities of lawyer may begin to shift as the profession moves to meet the demands of an increasingly digital age.
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