Monday, 17 December 2012

Does UK Law Practice Need a Digital Inclusion Champion?

"Perhaps no British person beyond Sir Tim Berners-Lee has better credentials to be an internet tsar," than Martha Lane Fox said the Times.
Martha Lane Fox is a prodigious English businesswoman that can boast of a raft of achievements, but what she’s best known for is Lastminute.com. A wildly successfully online travel company that she founded in 2001 despite the market chaos associated with the collapse of the dotcom bubble.

After selling the company in 2005 Lane Fox has since gone on to work on a range of exciting online and offline projects. The thematic whole of her work has been that of success and of a restless determination to push the boundaries of common custom.

In 2009 she was asked by the UK government to be the country’s Digital Inclusion Champion. The central motivating impetus of this role is to make the British public more computer literate.

We all know a computer-refusenik and we have our views on them but Martha Lane Fox has taken a pretty firm stance on the matter. For Lane Fox cited here:

“you can’t be a proper citizen of our society in the future if you are not engaged online.”

I would strongly agree with Ms. Lane Fox. My view is pretty simple: as the online world continues to push into every aspect of daily life - generating news and views, facilitating commerce, family relations and pushing the boundaries on what is possible - those who chose to avoid this world will lose out informationally and even start to become out of touch with those around them as they use digital ever more.

Ostensibly lawyers, solicitors, barristers, law firms and legal professionals have good reason to get online and to craft a digital identity. However as a generational issue the online world can appear daunting. Computer-literacy, privacy concerns, risk and the uncertainty of it all are common worries and are all perfectly understandable.

But in troubling economic times and in an age of global competition lawyers and law firms cannot afford to fall behind the times. And this is an exciting age for lawyers, just not traditional lawyers.  A great return on investment awaits those who stake their claim to the Digital World now and play themselves ahead of the curve.

So is there merit in the proposal that the law’s governing body in England and Wales appointing a Digital Inclusion Champion? Should the same be done in Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland?

At the moment there are a great many preachers on the matter but their efforts, while well meaning, are disparate and a little chaotic. By consolidating the means we could create a far more efficient end. Food for thought…

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