Some thoughts from our colleague, Chris Jones at Icon UK, which we’d wholeheartedly echo.  Over the next month or two, we will be exploring this with our customers in the legal sector, and will come back with their feedback and views..

Lord Briggs and other Supreme Court judges advocate the intelligent use of technology to bring the justice system within economic reach of all citizens and to speed the efficient processing and resolution of cases.  Yet too many practicing lawyers/solicitors are unaware of the possibilities and are often unsure if they start engaging with these technologies whether or not they would be contravening Law Society guidelines. We see that it is in no-ones interest for such ambiguities to exist, particularly as the legal sector strives to modernise a wide variety of practices. We would welcome a discussion with the relevant Policy and Practice Head(s) to clarify some specifics, both from policy and member communication perspectives.

Specifically, there are two technology types that we believe if adopted could bring huge benefits in reducing paper and fraud, plus improving security, speed, convenience, cost and compliance:

  1. E-Signing: There are many technical approaches to electronic signatures and these have very different legal implications. Some may be considered under the e-IDAS Regulation (superseding the Electronic Signatures Directive 1993/EC) and interpretations into basic, advanced and qualified e-signatures. Others use handwritten signatures with recoding either solely via a digital pen or hybrid ink/digital pens, whereby the biometric signature created can be forensically analysed to prove identity and is legally also subject to be view as “a handwritten signature in electronic form”. Whilst the Practise Handbook does not distinguish between wet ink and digital approaches, neither is it’s wording such that the majority believe that a digital first approach is permissible.
  1. Virtual Meetings: Solicitors often have an obligation to ‘meet their client’ and to do so face-to-face. This can be onerous for both client(s) and solicitor, plus any advisers. We have software that provides web-meetings via a client’s device (e.g. tablet, PC, etc.) that technically avoids the need to travel as it enables full personal interactions via web-cams, capture of identity documentation (with in-session ID validation options), sharing of documents for collaborative completion or review, screen sharing of any other content including web browsing, eSigning and secure document filing/forwarding. Moreover, all of these interactions are 100% recordable for up to 4 devices and soon to be 10 devices. We would like to validate that this approach fulfils the ‘requirement to meet’ obligations and if appropriately implemented can be a form of legitimate meeting.

We would also like to validate that remote witnessing is permissible using one or more of these technologies. The technologies are proven, used elsewhere in Europe and worldwide; the question now is whether a sceptical legal profession can be convinced that these can be part of modern practice.

References: https://www.lawgazette.co.uk/law/briggs-review-online-court-needed-to-cut-out-lawyers/5052973.article

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