What is your own practice area?
Data protection/freedom of information, IT/IP, solicitor advocacy
What motivates you to get up on a Monday morning?
Sadly our loveable dog cannot distinguish between a weekend morning and a working day morning.
What’s your top tip for new lawyers?
Dare to be different. Continue to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to innovate. Persevere if you don’t immediately get buy-in. Always aspire for excellence in what you do. Always prepare. Appear in courts or tribunals at every opportunity. Try not to take criticism or failure to heart. Deal with people at a human level if you possibly can.
How long have you been a member of the committee and how did you become involved?
Since late 1999 and I have been convener since May 2000. In those pre-dot.com days it was the “E-Commerce Committee” and most solicitors were wary of the internet – assuming they even knew what it was. I became interested in legal IT whilst working in New Zealand in the early 1990s – they had laboriously built a searchable database for a huge case. The idea that you could place thousands of documents in chronological order at the click of a button or search for particular dates and words showed me how much easier technology could make life as opposed to what I was then used to – doing it by hand.
What have been the highlights for you personally?
The “Lawseal” project aimed at giving every Scottish solicitor a digital signature. I remember showcasing the project with the then President David Preston in London in, I think, 2003 and the Law Society of England & Wales were staggered at how far ahead Scotland was. Too far as it turned out, because even then, less than 60% of the profession in Scotland had an email account and digital signatures were just too much, too soon. I’m also especially proud that we drafted the Society’s 2012 Cloud Computing Guidelines, which we understand were the first such guidelines issued by any legal regulator worldwide.
What big project/issue is the committee working on at the moment?
There is much happening in Europe that Scottish practitioners ought to be following very closely. For example, every meeting we are tracking the “Find a Lawyer 1 and 2” projects that will let EU nationals search for legal representation across member states. We are looking at identity verification technology. We are considering guidance on alternative payment methods such as Paypal. We are reviewing the current LSS guidance on electronic communication and scanning/archiving documents.
What do you see as the other main issues that the committee will have to address in the near future?
Cyber security and identity theft. We know of several recent cases where telephone scammers targeted Scottish solicitors. We are also aware of several welcome initiatives to increase the use of “technology” in the courts. We are unconvinced that these initiatives are yet sufficiently coordinated, or that there is consensus as to what form of “technology” the courts, profession and consumers of legal services actually need. So we are considering the imminent resurrection of the Court Technology Forum, which operated in the mid-2000s and pulled together all the court stakeholders.
Are you a member of any other committees?
No, but I am a director of an Edinburgh based cycle charity, The Bike Station.
If you could change only one thing for your members, what would it be?
Find a way of making their lives less frantic so that we all had more time to reflect on the issues the committee is concerned with.
What keeps you busy outside of work?
Running, cycling, driving and maintaining my ancient tractor. Especially proud to be Scottish rep for the trust which keeps the only airworthy Vulcan bomber flying: even my workstation ornament is an Olympus 202 turbine blade. Not a lot of people can say that… Quite an ironic juxtaposition of old and new technology interests, when you think about it.
In this issue
- Factors in the balance
- Balancing the right to decide
- Life yet in oil and gas
- Commercial awareness begins at trainee stage
- Relocation and the finances of contact
- Reading for pleasure
- Opinion: Archie Maciver
- Book reviews
- President's column
- Up and running at last
- People on the move
- With this Act, I thee wed
- Tax: a mission to inform
- For better, for worse
- Filling the Bournewood gap
- Power talking
- For whose aid?
- Balanced view
- A laughing matter?
- Directors: how much is too much, or not enough?
- Credit where it's due?
- New age, new image, new media, continuing problems?
- Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal
- Lawyers as leaders
- Property Law Committee update
- Property Standardisation Group update
- Over the finishing line – 2
- Not proven no more?
- Vulnerable clients guidance now extended to the young
- From the Brussels office
- Take it to the schools
- A future – a vision
- Ask Ash
- A strategy with legs?
- Who's got what it takes?
- I can act, but should I?
- Prominence unplanned