The mobile barrister

In the first of a series of articles from the Bar Council IT Panel, Jonathan Polnay addresses the issue of mobile devices and how they can be kept secure.

Smartphones and tablets are no longer new technology. Solicitors and clients demand instant responses to e-mails. We think nothing of viewing drafts of documents on the go and suggesting amendments by return. This added productivity comes with added risks – significant security risks.


The most obvious risk is that of loss. Whilst it used to be annoying to lose your contacts, losing a smartphone or tablet full of sensitive and privileged work e-mails and documents may have more serious consequences. Putting aside the breach of the Bar’s Code of Conduct (we are required to safeguard our clients’ confidentiality), you may also find yourself under scrutiny of the Information Commissioner and on the wrong end of one of their six-figure civil penalties. Don’t forget that information that we routinely deal with – medical reports, printouts of previous convictions – is considered as sensitive data under the Data Protection Act. The Bar IT Panel has previously published an extensive article in Counsel on this subject which is well worth re-reading. (See Counsel, August 2012 and September 2012.)

So how do you minimise the risk?

  • Password-protect your phone or tablet – use something memorable that’s not going to be easily guessed. 1-1-1-1 or 1-2-3-4 don’t count. Try throwing in a letter or two. Your initials plus your birthday.
  • Reduce the amount of information you store on your device. Do you really need all those e-mails going back for months and months? Why not restrict it to seven days? Go over your stored and saved files. Are they still needed? Do you really need the case papers from that trial that finished the other week? With a regular spring clean, if the worst comes to the worst you will limit the amount of data you have lost.
  • Encryption. This is the best way or ensuring the security of your data. Blackberrys are by far the most secure (go to: options -> security -> encryption and select ‘strongest’ to turn it on). iPhones and iPads are less secure. If you use the Android operating system on any device, you should think about installing software to safeguard your e-mails. If in doubt speak to your chambers IT staff, or an IT consultant if your chambers doesn’t have one.
  • Install a remote-wipe application. iPhones and iPads have the software built-in (if you activate ‘Find-my-iPhone’). Blackberry Protect (available free from the Blackberry App-store) does the same. Similar software is available for Android and other handsets and tablets. If you lose your device, you can ensure all sensitive data is erased.
  • Be careful where you connect to the internet. Unless you use a VPN (virtual private network – a special link to chambers) or are using a Blackberry, if you use a wireless hotspot such as BTOpenzone, your communications are very, very insecure – we are talking 15-year-old hacker territory. Not only could hackers intercept your e-mails, they could get your passwords too. If you must use a hotspot, make sure you don’t set your tablet to ‘auto-connect’ to it. You may find your device logging on and transferring data insecurely when you don’t even know about it.

If you carry out any work for the CPS or government departments, you will have a secure e-mail address (CJSM) – it’s a condition of being on any panel. You should note that the CJSM terms of service ban you from linking your CJSM account to a mobile device without permission of the Ministry of Justice. At the moment, permission is limited to Blackberrys, though this may change.

Tablets are a “no-no” for prosecution case papers without special encryption software. Whilst you can walk into any Crown Court and see prosecution counsel with witness statements uploaded on one, this is likely to be a flagrant breach of the Attorney-General’s Information Security Guidelines (available at www.barcouncil.org.uk) without such software. It may already be on your device – so make sure you enable it. I wouldn’t want to be the one who is made an example of.

You have been warned.

Jonathan Polnay is a member of the Bar Council IT Panel

Getting Mobile

Most technology experts agree the future is mobile. But what does that mean for barristers and their colleagues in chambers? Jitendra Valera takes a look at the way mobile apps are making an impact on the legal sector

Rapid growth

Mobile applications first started to make an appearance within chambers at the turn of the millennium when we saw the gradual introduction of the Blackberry device into the legal profession.

Barristers and clerks, like most other professionals, quickly saw a practical advantage to be gained by being able to access data remotely and being able to respond to emails ‘on the move’ instantly. The choice of apps on offer at that time was few and far between and the features rather rudimentary.

The subsequent mass consumer uptake of smartphones (iPhone and Android devices) has put mobile applications for business firmly into the mainstream. The launch of the iPad in 2010 has only served to increase the demand for useful business apps on tablet devices.

By the end of 2013 there are likely to be more than one million apps available on the Apple App Store and more than one million on Google Play. According to Nielsen 64% of mobile phone time is spent on apps (Nielsen 2012).

Impact on barristers

Forward thinking barristers are already making use of easily (and often freely) available mobile apps that were originally made for generic business use (see box). They are also embracing a variety of apps made specifically for the legal marketplace.

Mobility plays a major role in the growth strategy for businesses in 2013 and barristers are no different. Sets which adopt mobile technology will undoubtedly have advantages
over those stuck in the 20th century. Benefits such as improved efficiency, better client service and increased profitability will be achieved.

Challenges for chambers

The challenge for barristers, clerks and office managers is to inculcate a consistent and secure way of working in an environment of self-employed individuals so that internal IT infrastructures are compatible with mobile working.

The ‘early adopter’ barristers who are already making use of apps are, on the whole, using simple apps that perform a single function in isolation such as document creation or voice recording. This fragmentation of single purpose apps can cause confusion and increase risk if it is not managed carefully.

If apps are to be truly useful for barristers they need to ‘sync’ to the existing practice management system used within chambers. This convergence of data is what completes the loop. Clerks, practice managers and marketing must be able to have the opportunity to measure, track, analyse the data and interpret it in the context of the whole of chambers. It is this that will create efficiencies and improve the business performance of chambers. However, integration also increases security risks, and access and use of data by mobile apps must therefore be managed effectively.

The future

Barristers are currently in a transition phase and the number of them using mobile apps will continue to grow. If barristers are truly to be enabled, it is important that other areas of a barrister’s activity, such as the Court Service and other centres of legal activity, are mobile enabled and have secure digital infrastructures. What is perfectly clear, however, is the fact that the demand for secure access to legal data and activity by barristers and their colleagues is only going to increase over time.

Jitendra Valera, Advanced Legal

Mobile-Friendly Online Marketing

If you’re not online with a mobile-friendly easy-to-navigate mobile website that contains essential click-to-contact information, then you’re missing out on potential clients and fee-earning opportunities, writes Ian Bowen-Morris

The explosion in mobile search means today’s legal professionals need a mobile-ready and search optimised website that displays perfectly on smartphones. If you maintain a professional online profile – such as a LinkedIn page – then you’re already exploring the possibilities of social networking and digital media.

However, when it comes to promoting your professional services to the general public – for example, if you’re an independent barrister who accepts direct access instructions, or a barristers’ chambers – creating a convenient ‘mobile friendly’ online profile that can be indexed and found in local search engines is becoming a commercial and professional priority.

Mobile search is growing rapidly

The growing adoption of smartphones and tablet devices means the way people search for information is changing. Recent research by Google reveals that 95 per cent of all smartphone users now regularly search for local businesses and services online.

Crucially, 68 per cent of these local information seekers will call or visit a business after finding information on their phones. Indeed, the Mobile Marketing Association confirms that 70 per cent of all mobile searches result in action within one hour.

According to OFCOM, 94 per cent of UK adults now have a mobile device and the impact of the mobile search revolution is already making its mark. In its Online Business Outlook 2013 report, Barclays PLC found businesses that have invested in mobile-ready websites confirming that last year 27.8 per cent of their revenue was generated from mobile.

It’s a trend Barclays expects to escalate as 4G mobile phone networks continue to roll out across the UK, making it even faster and easier to find services while on the go.

What mobile users want

With more people using smartphones and tablets to search online for services, having a mobile-friendly online presence is becoming a digital must have for promoting and growing your practice.

Google’s in-depth analysis of what mobile users want makes interesting reading: over 60 per cent of mobile searchers told Google that if they didn’t find what they were looking for on a mobile site right away, they’d quickly move onto another. Ease of use was another priority, with 67 per cent saying they’d be more likely to enquire about a site’s services if it’s mobile friendly.

In terms of usability, smartphone users told Google they expected a mobile website to look clean and efficient, fit perfectly into their small screen, and provide click-to-call and click-to-email options along with links to an organisation’s full non-mobile site and social media connections where available.

Develop a mobile-friendly professional profile

The cost and time involved in developing a mobile-friendly website can seem prohibitive for self-employed professionals. But a new generation of one-page business profiles have made it very easy to create a cost-effective online presence that is designed to display perfectly on any device but specially designed with mobile users in mind.

Featuring essential contact information in a single and convenient easy-to-view page, today’s highly functional single page mobile websites are used by professionals from all walks of life to create a professional online brand presence that meets the needs of mobile information seekers.

Several chambers now use a mobile website to summarise professional skills, areas of practice and contact information for anyone searching while on the move.

Isn’t it time your chambers got on the move too?

Ian Bowen-Morris, Telnames

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