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Art of persuasion in court

Posted by Carl Islam on LinkedIn 10.09.2021 (www.ihtbar.com)

‘The best approach for a judge to adopt in the trial of a commercial case is, in my view, to place little if any reliance at all on witnesses’ recollections of what was said in meetings and conversations, and to base factual findings on inferences drawn from the documentary evidence and known or probable facts.’ Guestmin SGPS S.A. v Credit Suisse (UK) Ltd [2013, applied in Rainey v Weller & Ors [2021] – a Will forgery claim (see below).

Therefore, in a contentious probate case and thinking like a judge, to assist the court and as part of elementary case-preparation, counsel should draft a Chronology after reading the papers, i.e., before connecting the dots, in order to arrive at an overall conclusion based upon inferences drawn from the documentary evidence and known or probable facts.

While an advocate cannot win a case using logic alone, assisting the judge to make findings of fact based upon inferences drawn from the documentary evidence and known or probable facts, is the metier of advocacy in contentious probate trials, and an essential technique in drafting a Skeleton Argument, and delivering a compelling final speech at trial.

To see the big picture as early as possible, apply Keith Evans’ original golden rule of case preparation and planning, which is:

  1. As soon as you have an approximate idea of what a new case is about, sit down and write your ideal final speech. Then read it. See how well the available evidence supports it. At once you will see the gaps, the missing bits. Trying to close those gaps is the preparation of your case.
  2. When you think you are getting close sit down and write your opponent’s final speech. This will concentrate your focus more sharply on what you still need to do by way of preparation and on the weak points you will have to reach and deal with before anybody else does.
  3. Perfect your final speech – This is the blueprint of your trial. It becomes a record of your progress through the case, a shopping list of all you have to do, a fool proof checklist. The evidence you need and the way you need to present it stares straight at you from this final plan.

[The] purpose of doing the closing speech when you receive the brief is it lights up precisely what you want from each witness. Your closing speech is what you want to be able to say to the [judge]. It is a mixture of comment and reference to the evidence. Once you know what you want to say to the [judge], you will know what evidence you will seek from the witnesses. Once you know what comments you want to be able to make to the [judge] at the end of the trial based on that evidence, it is easy to work out precisely what you want from each witness. So, in preparing the closing speech, you find the natural consequence is that instinctively you prepare your examination of the witnesses… you know what you would like them to say, and can gear your preparation towards thinking about exactly how you will get them to say it… [so that you can] elicit from each witness only what you need for the closing speech… The closing speech is your map. It tells you where you are going, what you have to do, where you have been, and where you have to get to. It tells you everything you will want to do at trial… [From] your closing speech, you identify the comment you want to make. From the comment you want to make, you identify the facts you want to hear. From the facts you want to hear, you identify the questions you want to ask and of whom.’ [‘The Devil’s Advocate’ by Iain Morley QC].

Another useful technique to focus your mind, is as early you can, to draft the order you will seek at the end of the trial.

Recently, in Rainey v Weller & Ors [2021] EWHC 2206 (Ch) (05 August 2021), Deputy Master Linwood stated;

[Counsel] cited, as to the burden of proof, Face v Cunningham [2020] EWHC 3119 (Ch) where His Honour Judge Hodge QC sitting as a Judge of the High Court at [46] said: “…where the forgery of a will is alleged, then the ultimate burden of proving that the will is not a forgery must rest on the party propounding the will, as part of the formal requirements of proving that the will was duly executed by the testator and was duly witnessed.” It is therefore for the Defendants to establish, on the balance of probabilities, that the signature of [the deceased Testator] on the [disputed] Will was genuine. In closing submissions I said to [Counsel] and the Defendants that in my approach to the evidence I would very much have in mind the well-known paragraphs 15-22 in Guestmin SGPS S.A. v Credit Suisse (UK) Ltd [2013] EWHC 3560 (Comm) where Mr Justice Leggatt as he then was set out the difficulties of recollection based oral evidence, and the importance of documentary evidence.’

In Guestmin Mr Justice Leggat (as he then was) stated;

‘An obvious difficulty which affects allegations and oral evidence based on recollection of events which occurred several years ago is the unreliability of human memory.

While everyone knows that memory is fallible, I do not believe that the legal system has sufficiently absorbed the lessons of a century of psychological research into the nature of memory and the unreliability of eyewitness testimony. One of the most important lessons of such research is that in everyday life we are not aware of the extent to which our own and other people’s memories are unreliable and believe our memories to be more faithful than they are. Two common (and related) errors are to suppose: (1) that the stronger and more vivid is our feeling or experience of recollection, the more likely the recollection is to be accurate; and (2) that the more confident another person is in their recollection, the more likely their recollection is to be accurate.

Underlying both these errors is a faulty model of memory as a mental record which is fixed at the time of experience of an event and then fades (more or less slowly) over time. In fact, psychological research has demonstrated that memories are fluid and malleable, being constantly rewritten whenever they are retrieved. This is true even of so-called ‘flashbulb’ memories, that is memories of experiencing or learning of a particularly shocking or traumatic event. (The very description ‘flashbulb’ memory is in fact misleading, reflecting as it does the misconception that memory operates like a camera or other device that makes a fixed record of an experience.) External information can intrude into a witness’s memory, as can his or her own thoughts and beliefs, and both can cause dramatic changes in recollection. Events can come to be recalled as memories which did not happen at all or which happened to someone else (referred to in the literature as a failure of source memory).

Memory is especially unreliable when it comes to recalling past beliefs. Our memories of past beliefs are revised to make them more consistent with our present beliefs. Studies have also shown that memory is particularly vulnerable to interference and alteration when a person is presented with new information or suggestions about an event in circumstances where his or her memory of it is already weak due to the passage of time.

The process of civil litigation itself subjects the memories of witnesses to powerful biases. The nature of litigation is such that witnesses often have a stake in a particular version of events. This is obvious where the witness is a party or has a tie of loyalty (such as an employment relationship) to a party to the proceedings. Other, more subtle influences include allegiances created by the process of preparing a witness statement and of coming to court to give evidence for one side in the dispute. A desire to assist, or at least not to prejudice, the party who has called the witness or that party’s lawyers, as well as a natural desire to give a good impression in a public forum, can be significant motivating forces.

Considerable interference with memory is also introduced in civil litigation by the procedure of preparing for trial. A witness is asked to make a statement, often (as in the present case) when a long time has already elapsed since the relevant events. The statement is usually drafted for the witness by a lawyer who is inevitably conscious of the significance for the issues in the case of what the witness does nor does not say. The statement is made after the witness’s memory has been “refreshed” by reading documents. The documents considered often include statements of case and other argumentative material as well as documents which the witness did not see at the time or which came into existence after the events which he or she is being asked to recall. The statement may go through several iterations before it is finalised. Then, usually months later, the witness will be asked to re-read his or her statement and review documents again before giving evidence in court. The effect of this process is to establish in the mind of the witness the matters recorded in his or her own statement and other written material, whether they be true or false, and to cause the witness’s memory of events to be based increasingly on this material and later interpretations of it rather than on the original experience of the events.

It is not uncommon (and the present case was no exception) for witnesses to be asked in cross-examination if they understand the difference between recollection and reconstruction or whether their evidence is a genuine recollection or a reconstruction of events. Such questions are misguided in at least two ways. First, they erroneously presuppose that there is a clear distinction between recollection and reconstruction, when all remembering of distant events involves reconstructive processes. Second, such questions disregard the fact that such processes are largely unconscious and that the strength, vividness and apparent authenticity of memories is not a reliable measure of their truth.

In the light of these considerations, the best approach for a judge to adopt in the trial of a commercial case is, in my view, to place little if any reliance at all on witnesses’ recollections of what was said in meetings and conversations, and to base factual findings on inferences drawn from the documentary evidence and known or probable facts. This does not mean that oral testimony serves no useful purpose – though its utility is often disproportionate to its length. But its value lies largely, as I see it, in the opportunity which cross-examination affords to subject the documentary record to critical scrutiny and to gauge the personality, motivations and working practices of a witness, rather than in testimony of what the witness recalls of particular conversations and events. Above all, it is important to avoid the fallacy of supposing that, because a witness has confidence in his or her recollection and is honest, evidence based on that recollection provides any reliable guide to the truth.’

In Rainey v Weller & Ors [2021], the judge accepted the expert evidence of the Claimant’s handwriting expert, observing that the expert:

‘expresses a more positive view on the scale they both worked to that the signature on the [disputed] Will was not that of [the deceased Testator]. Thirdly, but at the very bottom of my scale of expert witness factors/considerations, is that [‘C’s expert] just edges [‘D’s expert] in his credentials, although I place very little weight upon that. … The totality of [his expert] evidence is unassailable in my judgment.’

In finding that the disputed will was a forgery the Judge made findings of fact based upon inferences drawn from the documentary evidence and known or probable facts, which included:

  • i) It is highly improbable, indeed verging on the impossible, in the circumstances I have set out above that [the deceased Testator] decided in the very short gap between the 9th February – 5th March to wholly change her will – she knew her own mind;
  • ii) In particular there was no change of circumstances or intervening event as I have found above;
  • iii) Likewise, it would not make sense that, had she so decided, she would not go back to the solicitors, with whom she was still in contact as they were finalising the LPA, to make any new will;
  • iv) The [disputed] Will was not mentioned by [D.1] … to anyone. That appears unlikely if it had been made as [D.1] says as his sons … were living with him at all material times;
  • v) When his mother died [D.1] did not immediately produce the [disputed] Will. In oral evidence he said he could not remember where he had put it, and eventually found it in his loft. That I find unbelievable in circumstances where the natural reaction would be to keep one’s mother’s will close but safe and to produce it immediately upon her death;
  • vi) [D.1] had in his control the evidence as to from where he obtained the template for the [disputed] Will that he said he used; he never produced it;
  • vii) Likewise, as I observed at the start of trial, I was surprised no metadata was obtained from [D.1’s] laptop/PC to show exactly when he prepared it and how or from what, although as I said it was also open to [C’s] solicitors to apply for it had they appreciated that;
  • viii) [D.1] provided to his expert the Cards which he had access to as he took control of his mother’s house and effects including her papers after her death. [C] said in evidence and I accept that [T] did have various bank cards which she had not signed. One such blank card was produced by [C] on disclosure. I find that [D.1] or someone at his behest forged his mother’s signature on the Cards in an attempt to manipulate the expert evidence;
  • ix) However, he had to provide the Cards for examination by [C’s] expert, as appears from the correspondence I have referred to. He therefore decided to send an empty envelope to Streathers but obtained a Certificate of Posting to show he had provided the Cards to them;
  • x) However [D.1] had not appreciated that the Post Office on the Certificate of Posting set out their weight of the envelope and any contents, for charging purposes, which according to the evidence of Dr Chatfield, was about twice the weight of what was actually despatched by [D.1], namely the empty envelope;
  • xi) [D.1] then tried to get around this evidential problem he had created for himself by saying the envelope was not, as Ms Jelea said, white but brown. However, this attempt to manipulate the evidence also failed as Dr Chatfield said a brown envelope would actually weigh less, which only fortified his conclusion;
  • xii) That none of [T’s grandchildren] were told by their grandmother of their future legacies, notwithstanding how close they all say they were to her, and – for [D.5 & d.6] – that she regularly told them they were to inherit her house and possessions;
  • xiii) That [D.1] in cross examination said his mother did not need to name her grandchildren who were to benefit as he knew who they were to be;
  • xiv) Likewise, his confidence that notwithstanding his mother not naming the three beneficiaries he prepared the [disputed] Will and got [D.3] to go round to witness it before his mother had even seen it;
  • xv) The fact that when their mother died on 24th November 2018 neither [D.3] nor [D.1] told anyone of the [disputed] Will – in fact it did not surface until [D.1] applied for probate of it in January 2019. I do not accept [D.1’s] explanation that the reason for this was because he was grieving; …
  • xvii) If Mrs Weller had really made the March Will, it would in view of her conduct of her affairs follow that she would have ensured a copy was in [a] Suitcase [which T had] prepared carefully to resolve her affairs, in all respects, for the future, with the copy of the [earlier] Will and the physical gifts of cash and jewellery;
  • xviii) Likewise, all the urgent efforts and concern to locate and secure the Suitcase would have been clearly pointless to [T] if she really had appointed [D.1] as her executor;
  • xix) Especially, the evidence of [C’s handwriting expert] that there was moderate to strong evidence that the signature of [T] had been forged.’
Carl Islam Author

Carl Islam Author

101 Most Innovative Business Intelligence Start-ups & Companies

London, UK, August 24, 2021 – Independent publication Data Magazine has named Advisory Excellence in a list of the 101 Most Innovative Business Intelligence Start-ups & Companies (England) in 2021.

Advisory Excellence placed 28th in their list of the 101 Most Innovative Business Intelligence Start-ups & Companies in England. The list of start-ups and companies were chosen for their approach to innovating the Business Intelligence industry and for being exceptional companies to follow on social media.

Why not follow Advisory Excellence on social media?

This follows our success in being named among London’s Best Professional Networking Companies — To Work For and Buy From in 2021 by BestStartup.co.uk and among the Top UK Professional Networking Companies and Start-ups in 2020 by Welp Magazine.

Advisory Excellence reaches 45000+ followers and subscribers on social media. We offer news and press release distribution to businesses and individuals from around the globe.

Our news is also shared on Google NewsStreet InsiderMcap MediaWire, NewsEdge and Stocks News Feed.

If you would like to see your news on Advisory Excellence, please contact us for a free quote.

NSAV Announces Launch of Cryptocurrency Exchange

London, England, August 9, 2021 – McapMediaWire – Net Savings Link, Inc. (OTC Pink: NSAV), a cryptocurrency, blockchain and digital asset technology company, today announced the launch of its wholly owned Cryptocurrency Exchange, which carries the NSAV brand name. The NSAV Exchange www.nsavexchange.com makes NSAV only the second U.S. publicly traded company to own a Cryptocurrency Exchange, following the Coinbase https://www.coinbase.com/ IPO in April, which valued Coinbase at over $85 billion. The launch officially marks the Company’s entrance into the $2 trillion global cryptocurrency market. The NSAV Exchange is fully functional.

The Company slightly delayed its timeline to become fully operational. NSAV is in the process of strengthening its KYC (Know Your Client) protocols and other compliance related items, in order ensure that it doesn’t fall victim to the same legal and regulatory problems that have recently plagued Coinbase and Binance. The Company believes that it possesses the expertise and skill set to be fully compliant in all jurisdictions in which it conducts business. The management believes this delay will be in the best interest of all NSAV shareholders, in order to ensure shareholder value is being protected.

In related news, NSAV announced plans launch a governance token, which management believes will be a huge benefit for its NSAV Exchange. Uniswap’s governance token, UNI https://uniswap.org/ was launched in 2020 at a price of around $1.00 and is currently trading at over $26.00 due to the utility of governance tokens, which allow them to appreciate rapidly.

Silverbear Capital Inc. https://www.sbcfinancialgroup.com.hk/, a leading, global investment banking firm, will be advising NSAV on strategic matters relating to the Company’s cryptocurrency exchange. Silverbear will also help guide NSAV in ensuring that its exchange is continually in compliance, given the rapidly increasing regulatory environment in the cryptocurrency industry.

Silverbear Capital Inc. (SBC) has a dynamic of disciplines on a broad commercial level and practice. SBC has a strong group of Partners in a wide range of disciplines with seasoned experience in finance, management, and professional practice. https://www.sbcfinancialgroup.com.hk/meet-our-team/

Disclaimer: Silverbear Capital Inc. does not constitute investment advice, or an offer or solicitation to sell, or a solicitation to buy, or any other investment product (nor shall any such shares or product be offered or sold to any person) in any jurisdiction in which an offer, solicitation, purchase or sale would be unlawful under the securities law of that jurisdiction.

The management of NSAV believes that the Company can capture a significant share of the massive Chinese cryptocurrency market, given the expertise of its management and strategic partners. Presently, the Huobi Cryptocurrency Exchange https://www.huobi.com/en-us/ has a 24-hour trading volume of over $6 billion and 40% of its users are from China. Huobi is number 3 globally in daily revenue at $2.29 million, behind only Upbit https://sg.upbit.com/home $3.42 and industry leader, Binance https://www.binance.com/en at $3.48 million.

The management of NSAV and its partners are pioneers in the Digital Asset and Blockchain industry. The team is led by NSAV Director, Mr. Yuen Wong. Mr. Wong is also the CEO of LABS Group Limited https://labsgroup.io, the world’s first end to end Blockchain powered real estate investment ecosystem and powered by the LABS ecosystem token through decentralised finance (DeFi) and governance.

As one of the founders of Bitmart Cryptocurrency Exchange, Mr. Wong helped guide BitMart in becoming a premier global digital asset trading platform, with over 2 million users worldwide and ranked among the top crypto exchanges on CoinMarketCap. Bitmart’s platform supports over 220 cryptocurrencies and has a 24 hour trading volume of approximately $2 Billion. Mr. Wong is also a partner at Silverbear Capital.

Danny Lau, NSAV Director and Silverbear Capital partner stated, “We are extremely pleased to see a major media network in U.S. reporting our Company’s progress. This means the NSAV brand is being recognised internationally. We’d like to sincerely thank SBC Investor Relations for their dedicated and professional work.”

Mr. Dato’ Sri Desmond Lim, Senior Vice President of Cryptocurrency Operations for NSAV and Silverbear Capital partner stated, “This is an exciting milestone for NSAV. I am thrilled to see the company introducing the planned launch of an NSAV governance token, which will act as a native token to our exchange as well. I believe the decentralised direction is a very good strategy and will bring more democracy to our ecosystem.”

Mr. Lim is also Co-Founder of the world-renowned World Glove City Project in Malaysia https://worldglovescity.com.

NSAV’s vision is the establishment of a fully integrated technology company that provides turnkey technological solutions to the cryptocurrency, blockchain and digital asset industries. Over time, the Company plans to provide a wide range of services such as software solutions, eCommerce, advisory services, financial services and information technology.

For further information please contact NSAV at [email protected]

The NSAV Twitter account can be accessed at https://twitter.com/nsavtech

The NSAV corporate website can be accessed at http://nsavholdinginc.com

This press release contains certain forward-looking statements within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, which are intended to be covered by the safe harbours created thereby. Investors are cautioned that, all forward-looking statements involve risks and uncertainties, including without limitation, the ability of Net Savings Link, Inc. to accomplish its stated plan of business. Net Savings Link, Inc. believes that the assumptions underlying the forward-looking statements contained herein are reasonable, any of the assumptions could be inaccurate, and therefore, there can be no assurance that the forward-looking statements included in this press release will prove to be accurate. In light of the significant uncertainties inherent in the forward- looking statements included herein, the inclusion of such information should not be regarded as a representation by Net Savings Link, Inc. or any other person.

Contact
Net Savings Link, Inc.
[email protected]

NSAV and SBC Investor Relations Unveil Dynamic Blockchain Strategy

London, England, August 2, 2021 – Net Savings Link, Inc. (OTC Pink: NSAV), a cryptocurrency, blockchain and digital asset technology company, today announced, in conjunction with the support of SBC Investor Relations, Inc., its dynamic blockchain strategy and outlook for the coming year. In May, the Company announced its entrance into the massive multi-billion-dollar Chinese blockchain market. NSAV and its team of blockchain pioneers, will now commence operations in North America, the world’s largest blockchain market. Businesses in North America have recognised the potential of blockchain technology in delivering enhanced customer experiences and therefore have started adopting the technology to develop business applications. Silverbear Capital Inc. https://www.sbcfinancialgroup.com.hk/ will navigate with NSAV’s management and partners to enter the North American blockchain market. SBC Investor Relations’ research team believes the market outlook for blockchain is extremely strong and believes NSAV’s business direction will be benefit from this dynamic momentum.

Additionally, recent research indicates that the global blockchain market size is expected to grow from USD 3.0 billion in 2020 to USD 39.7 billion by 2025, at an impressive Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 67.3% during 2020–2025. The increasing need for simplifying the business processes and need for supply chain management applications integrated with the blockchain technology will drive the overall blockchain market. Based on these indicators, NSAV’s management believes the Company’s future in the blockchain sector looks very promising.

The managements of SBC Investor Relations, Inc. and NSAV would like to thank all NSAV shareholders for their continued support, loyalty and trust. It is truly appreciated.

NSAV also announced that its Director and Bitmart Exchange Managing Partner, Mr. Yuen Wong’s video update to shareholders has just been released. The video can be accessed at the link below.

As one of the founders of Bitmart Cryptocurrency Exchange https://www.bitmart.com, Mr. Wong helped guide BitMart in becoming a premier global digital asset trading platform, with over 2 million users worldwide and ranked among the top crypto exchanges on CoinMarketCap. Bitmart’s platform supports over 220 cryptocurrencies and has a 24 hour trading volume of approximately $2 Billion.

NSAV further announced that the Company is on schedule for the August 9, 2021 launch of its wholly-owned Cryptocurrency Exchange, which will carry the NSAV brand name.

The launch will officially mark the Company’s entrance into the $2 trillion global cryptocurrency market and make NSAV only the second U.S. publicly traded company to own a Cryptocurrency Exchange, following the Coinbase https://www.coinbase.com/ IPO in April, which valued Coinbase at over $85 billion.

SBC Investor Relations, Inc. https://www.sbcfinancialgroup.com.hk/case/investor-relations/ is a pioneer provider of investor relations and strategic corporate communications. They have been working with companies to build their profiles within the investment community.

In addition, SBC Investor Relations, Inc. is a specific sub-discipline of SBC’s public relations division that revolves around how we assist a company to communicate with investors, shareholders, government authorities and the financial community.

Mr. Dato’ Sri Desmond Lim, on behalf of SBC Investor Relations, Inc. and partner at Silverbear Capital Inc. stated, “We continue to research and monitor the blockchain market on a daily basis to ensure we are up to date with the ongoing development of the industry. We use this data to formulate a modern strategy to hedge against risks in the marketplace, in order to ensure we are building shareholder value.”

Mr. Lim is also Senior Vice President of Cryptocurrency Operations for NSAV and Co-Founder of the world-renowned World Glove City Project in Malaysia https://worldglovescity.com.

The management of NSAV released the following statement, “We continue to drive value into our business model by preparing for the future of the blockchain and crypto sectors.  We monitor closely which territories have more demand and also the ongoing changing rules from regulators, in order to make sure we are prepared to take on opportunities from this industry.”

NSAV’s vision is the establishment of a fully integrated technology company that provides turnkey technological solutions to the cryptocurrency, blockchain and digital asset industries. Over time, the Company plans to provide a wide range of services such as software solutions, eCommerce, advisory services, financial services and information technology.

For further information please contact NSAV at [email protected]

The NSAV Twitter account can be accessed at https://twitter.com/nsavtech

The NSAV corporate website can be accessed at http://nsavholdinginc.com

This press release contains certain forward-looking statements within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, which are intended to be covered by the safe harbours created thereby. Investors are cautioned that, all forward-looking statements involve risks and uncertainties, including without limitation, the ability of Net Savings Link, Inc. to accomplish its stated plan of business. Net Savings Link, Inc. believes that the assumptions underlying the forward-looking statements contained herein are reasonable, any of the assumptions could be inaccurate, and therefore, there can be no assurance that the forward-looking statements included in this press release will prove to be accurate. In light of the significant uncertainties inherent in the forward- looking statements included herein, the inclusion of such information should not be regarded as a representation by Net Savings Link, Inc. or any other person.

Contact
Net Savings Link, Inc.
[email protected]

Ashurst advises on the establishment of Oak National Academy

International law firm Ashurst advised on the launch of Oak National Academy, a virtual school established groups of schools and The Reach Foundation to deliver education remotely to the UK during the COVID-19 crisis.

The new initiative is supported by a range of organisations including Teach First, Google and the Department for Education.

Launched on Monday 20 April, this brand-new enterprise has been created by over 40 teachers from some of the leading schools across England, with government grant funding to support its start up. It will provide 180 video lessons each week, across a broad range of subjects from maths to art to languages, for every year group from Reception through to Year 10.

Ashurst advised Teach First and The Reach Foundation, both charitable entities to support teaching and education across the UK, on a pro bono basis on the IP and branding associated with the launch. This included advising on the availability and use of logos, trademarks, domain names and associated assets and the registration of various IP rights to ensure the protection of the brand and its associated goodwill. The team was led by IP partner David Wilkinson, associate Anouska Fabes and legal analyst manager Jessica Whitfield.

Anouska Fabes commented: “Oak National Academy is an inspiring project that demonstrates the power of collaboration during difficult times, and will provide access to valuable resources for those teachers, students and families in the UK in need of support and a helping hand. The Ashurst IP team are delighted to have worked with Teach First to contribute towards its launch.”

Tech investment and open information can unlock justice for all

Technology has the potential to unlock justice for all, according to a new report launched by the Law Society of England and Wales. However, it is by no means a ‘silver bullet’.

Based on an assessment of 50 initiatives and qualitative interviews with more than 45 stakeholders – the report explores whether technology is the key to unlock the potential of law, justice and rights.

It concludes that, with the right support from government, technology can be the key to unlocking access to justice innovation.

“Technological solutions can help to unlock justice for those with legal needs but not the means,” Law Society of England and Wales president Simon Davis said.

“New user-focused innovations have overcome some of the traditional obstacles to access. Firms, advice clinics and in-house teams are utilising technology to serve more effectively the needs of often vulnerable clients.

“However much more support is needed for meaningful impact. This includes better coordination, information sharing and resources.

“There are still too few solutions designed specifically for this purpose – instead, the sector is over-reliant on a trickle down from the commercial legal market.”

Key findings include:

  • Significant work is being done by firms, advice clinics and in-house teams to meet legal need which is supported by technology. The government has taken positive steps through the Legal Support Advisory Group and its ministerial commitments to support new forms of technology to make justice more accessible. There is, however, much more to be done – in most cases, better data management, information sharing and co-ordination is needed.
  • The consumer-facing market is less mature than the business-to-business market on legal technology adoption. Recently, resource allocation and the need for greater efficiencies have driven demand for technological solutions.
  • Online resources are the primary means of providing information to the public. However, face-to-face remains the most popular way for delivering advice, followed by mobile apps which are often used at the start of the process.
  • Barriers to technological adoption include; widespread variation, lack of access to data, inequality of resources, duplication of products, funding and regulatory concerns.
  • Innovation is being led and used by third sector, including law centres and pro bono clinics, often working with firms and universities to provide services. This is more commonly found for disputes in housing, family, employment, debt and social welfare.

“Government must recognise that technology alone cannot provide a silver bullet: use of technology needs to be part of a wider innovation strategy, centred on the individual that needs legal help and framed by the organisation’s purpose and resources,” Simon Davis said.

“Technology-based initiatives can facilitate access to a qualified lawyer, but they cannot replace it. Since 2012 half of law centres or agencies offering free legal advice have closed, and there have been significant cuts to legal aid.

“Government should work with stakeholders to agree a joint set of principles for long-term investment. This will encourage a growth in justice innovations and their adoption within the sector – enhancing access opportunities for those who need it most.”

The report recommends government bodies, private sector and third sector organisations that offer funds for legal technology and access to justice initiatives should agree on a set of principles to encourage long-term investment in the sector. It also suggests the creation of an Open Source Platform for access to justice and technology and a comprehensive list of agreed solutions to overcome barriers and meet legal need.