When I was asked to write an article back at the beginning of March about new ideas or innovation in my capacity of CEO of Quartz Barristers, the world was a very different place. A distant ‘normal’ and somewhere I do not think we will ever return, and perhaps in some ways, a place we would not want to return to.
It is now the end of April and so much has happened and by the time you read this article it will be June, by then we are sure to be experiencing another culture shift coming out of lockdown. However uncertain the immediate future appears; Quartz Barristers Chambers is ready to embrace the ‘new technology norm’.
The phrase ‘new normal’ as is coined the world over, a term which has formed part of our everyday vocabulary for when we hypothesise on what the future might be like. For me it not only means change, but also disruption at both a micro and macro level, an unprecedented moment in history to innovate.
Covid-19 has impacted devastation on millions of people throughout the world, the sad loss of life and global financial hardship are not elements we would have chosen. The effects of this time will stay with us and have a lasting impact, changing the way we think of our environment, engage with friends and family, treat strangers and of course, how we do business.
The Bar is of course no exception, Covid-19 has cast a light upon antiquated practices we perceived to be ‘normal’ in order to administer, serve and deliver justice. We have been forced, simultaneously to re-think, adapt and to a degree re-invent ourselves at rapid speed.
Generally, the Bar is a collegial profession whereby in the main, individual chambers remain close to their competitors and evoke congenial rivalry in a perpetual game of competitive advantage. I believe that a paradigm shift towards a sharing of knowledge and opportunity will create a much stronger, sustainable profession.
In truth, there is in the region of £35billion spent within the UK legal sector, there are many market opportunities that remain untapped by the Bar. There is plenty work to go around and for those of us confident enough to work in a more collegiate way, then I feel many more opportunities can be explored by way of a ‘new technological normal’.
It is a precarious time for many barristers at this time, a recent Bar Council survey highlighted the prevalent risk associated with running chambers and the sustainability of large sections of the Bar, particularly the criminal and legally aided Bar. Sadly, chambers are failing, leaving clerks and barristers without chambers. I do have experience of starting from scratch and so I am sure I can help should anyone wish to contact me for guidance and advice.
Confidence in the marketplace has been understandably low with the daily practice of scheduling court hearings causing confusion for clients. The MOJ and HMCTS have coordinated a rapid temporary response to aid a basic functioning justice system, however the disjointed application for remote hearings has caused an unnecessary ‘bottle neck’ within the judicial legal system.
It is clear and accepted by as all that we must capitalise on the widely open acceptance amongst barristers, solicitors and the judiciary that technology has to play a pivotal role in the future of the law and how justice is delivered. Open inter-connected platforms are readily available, and we can manage numerous applications to deliver what the Bar needs. However, there is nothing that brings together the complete requirements of what a barrister and clerk needs like Aircrowd.
Business agility was the first thing written down on the Quartz blueprint. Our strategy had to be built upon the core beneficial, traditional features of chambers, but then turn them on their head; highlight and champion them with pride.
We are resilient and not afraid of disrupting the marketplace or to break through glass ceilings and to be bold and brave to implement change. We use tried and trusted management and academic models but are not afraid to challenge and critique the theory in order to champion our own argument to support and implement our strategy. The 3 key objectives for us to reach our goal; is to be clear of our vision, to create a collegial and transparent culture and to constantly evaluate our value proposition.
We continue to ask ourselves numerous Why? and What? questions, to constantly improve and add value to Quartz as a business, to our customers and for us personally. We promote full tenant, door tenant and associate relationships in equal measure; an individual barrister’s circumstances do not prejudice the quality of service they offer to the customer. Therefore, we celebrate the fact that barristers have other life priorities, such as family, part-time judicial roles and teaching the next generation of lawyers at law school.
Our barristers are independent entrepreneurial thinkers that allow us to be the entrepreneurial doers! We simply fit in around our barristers, we have mutual trust and treat our barristers as adults who in turn respect the business of chambers aligned to our overall goal.
Our ‘unbundled’ agile service thread runs through the whole of Quartz, each part works autonomously, so that each element is in tune with the other, including clerking, credit control, accounts and finance, marketing, business development, strategy design and technological development.
It was already an exciting time for legal technology prior to the global lockdown, but the true potential was met with resistance amongst the Bar. I believe the transcendent attitude towards utilising technology beyond chambers legacy systems will now change. Chambers should and will continue to champion themselves in silos, protecting their brand and independent USP. However, collaborating knowledge and opportunity through a holistic technology platform like Aircrowd will be a real game changer.
The Bar needs to be less inwardly focused and realise the amazing impact technology will have on the law and how barristers and clerks function. Something which has posed a barrier for many years to the ideology of technological progress may now be welcomed into conversation.
I believe legal tech is a fundamental part of the ‘new legal norm’, we need to open our mind to the future possibilities to realise the phenomenal impact technology will have on the law, in particular how barristers and clerks run their practice and have a better sense of wellbeing.
I believe Aircrowd represents a legal utopia, it is a seamless AI driven, intuitive and collaborative technology platform which not only schedules, tracks and augments daily working practices for barristers; it reports and analyses data, sorts and prepares bundles, applies task management and notification, creates a knowledge resource and connects clerks, barristers, customers and solicitors bringing together a community of professionals who can collaborate in one place.
Aircrowd is an entity created by eminent technology AI professionals and me, to serve the profession in a collegiate way. Quartz will be one of the first chambers to use the system at the beginning of June, others will join from mid-June. At present those chambers, barristers and clerks who are interested in obtaining further information can only be invited after logging interest at www.aircrowd.co.uk
Should any barrister or clerk wish to contact me for guidance or advice I am always happy to help if I can www.quartzbarristers.co.uk
Paul Wright, Chief Executive, Quartz Barristers