Computers & Law, the online presence of the Society for Computers & Law, asks every year for our predictions for the following year.
Most people, quite properly, use this opportunity to give straight-up-and-down ideas of where we are going and what we might expect. I do that all year anyway, and use this opportunity to inject some seasonal cynicism into the business of prediction.
eDiscovery / eDisclosure does not operate in a vacuum, although some of its practitioners behave as if it were a free-standing virtue, detached from everyday business. It sits in a context of disputes, investigations and regulatory compliance, and there is more than enough of that around to keep everyone busy. If asked, as I am from time to time, what future I see for those with eDiscovery products, services and expertise, I am optimistic, whether they are providers of such things or lawyers who practice with them.
Privacy and data protection impose an increasing need to understand how to manage electronic data, whether for disputes or for wider business purposes. Regulation will only increase, and regulators are getting more demanding as their own skills improve and as they acquire the tools to do their part of the job well.
Civil litigation, as practiced in the courts of England and Wales, is not in a good state. Certainly, there are good firms doing interesting and profitable work, much of it involving eDisclosure. Some recent cases suggest that not all are doing it to the standards expected by the courts, but there is skill around to match the work, and we have judges able to rise to the occasion.
It is the wider framework of justice delivery which concerns me. In Chris Grayling and Liz Truss we have had two Secretaries of State for Justice who clearly know nothing and don’t care (in between we had Michael Gove who showed much interest and much promise before his political ineptness removed him from the scene). The Ministry of Justice is a shambles, its senior staff willing to think only of cutting costs without any thought as to how equivalent money could be saved without damaging the fabric of justice itself.
The combination of incompetent, ignorant politicians and dull, indifferent civil servants has been a disaster for the administration of justice in both the criminal and the civil jurisdictions.
My predictions for 2017 are here. As I say in them, see as you read down it if you can identify the point where reasoned prediction turns into the snarling of a cynical old hack.
My thanks to Computers & Law for publishing them.