Magna Carta: the past, present and future for professional legal services

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The Global Law Summit 2015 and 800 years of Magna Carta: the past, present and future for professional legal services

The prestigious Global Law Summit will take place in the UK at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in Westminster, London, on 23 – 25 February 2015.

The conference brings together legal professionals from around the world. According to Secretary of State for Justice, Chris Grayling, this year’s event will be “a world class conference showcasing the UK’s unrivalled legal expertise, based on a long history of freedom and justice.”

Magna Carta and the history of law in the UK

The 2015 Global Law Summit coincides with the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, which will be a theme running throughout the three-day event. Sir David Wootton, Co Chair of the Global Law Summit Board and Lord Mayor of London 2011-2012, describes 2015 as “a unique opportunity to celebrate 800 years of legal history,” saying it will be “a fantastic way of showcasing the UK as a world leader in legal services and business, and promoting the rule of law.”

The Magna Carta theme is explored by Ruth Daniel, Chief Executive of the Access to Justice Foundation in her article, Is Magna Carta still relevant today? She points out that “at the heart of Magna Carta was the concept that there should be proper access to justice.

With the recent changes in the provision of legal advice, cuts in funding and the increasing complexity of citizens’ interaction with the law, the ability to obtain access to justice remains as relevant to day as it was when the Barons gathered at Runnymede.”

Relevance of Magna Carta to law firm management today

These changes to the old funding models on which law practices relied have affected the way law firms are run, at the same time as a global recession has created a very price-sensitive market. Clients, both individual and corporate, now demand increased value for money, increased transparency (especially with regard to the process and costings for managing their cases) as well as new ways to interact with legal firms and maintain control of case progress.

All of this has placed increased pressure on law firm managers to show value for money and transparency, and on finance directors who are required to work out how to keep the firm running profitably on increasingly slim margins.

George Bull of Baker Tilly recently picked up on statements made at the Modern Law Conference, suggesting that “of the 200 or so mid-tier law firms, only some 50 may survive in the short to medium term.” He identified 19 pitfalls, a third of which could be avoided by the provision and implementation of effective management information systems.

A complete understanding of which work generates the most profit and which business operations incur the biggest costs is vital. It allows practice managers and finance directors to make effective changes to law firm management and financial priorities and processes to ensure the long term financial sustainability and success of their firm. Only then can they guarantee to offer everyone the “proper access to justice” that Magna Carta decrees.

What is the future for professional legal services?

The Global Law Summit 2015 programme considers a wide range of important and fascinating topics this year. Richard Susskind’s talk on day two will, I think, be of particular interest to law firm managers and directors.

Richard Susskind OBE will talk on ‘The future of professional legal services’. Drawing on themes from his forthcoming book, Beyond the Professions (co-author, Daniel Susskind), Richard Susskind will argue that the practice of law and the administration of justice will change more radically over the next decade than in the last century:

“Explaining and building on advances in artificial intelligence, social networking, and robotics, he will predict the widespread use of Internet-based legal diagnostic tools, tele-lawyering, online dispute resolution, and virtual hearings. He will suggest that the emergence of new ways of sharing legal expertise in society and the replacement of many legal jobs by machine will require us to rethink the scope and nature of the legal profession.”

I touched upon some of these themes in my recent post Should law firm managers see big data as an opportunity or a risk, considering whether digital technology advances could cut costs (and thus boost profitability) for law firms or simply end up shrinking their business.

Whether or not technology will prove to be the “kill or cure”is yet to be seen. But what is clear is that law firms can no longer ignore the changing market or new technologies, and many will have to adapt to survive.

As George Bull pointed out, only by having a complete understanding of business operations using effective management information systems, will law firms know which strategic direction is right for their firm.

Are you attending the Global Law Summit? What are you particularly looking forward to seeing?

Do tweet me your thoughts to @KatchrData

To find out more about how reviewing your management information systems could benefit your business, contact me by email or call 03333 010 766

Blog post by Graham Moore, Managing Director, Katchr.

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