With innovation comes change
In his parting foreword, Kevin Poulter postures that challenges - and opportunity - are inevitable for the legal profession and the world's longest-running legal magazine
Innovation isn't the first word that springs to mind when you think of the regulation of the legal sector, yet the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) is encouraging us all to think more about new ways of working. How we deliver legal services and how we use technology will be essential to the future-proofing of the profession. At the SRA Innovate conference this week, I was reassured that this is more than just hollow talk and, to prove it, change from within is already underway.
Alongside the promise of lighter regulation, a much-reduced SRA Handbook (cut down from 668 pages to around 50), and a ten-page code of conduct - split evenly between firms and individuals, based on principles not prescription - the SRA offered an open door to discuss new ideas and innovative working.
The message was one of help not hindrance, backed up by a panel of innovators who shared stories and schemes that had been granted the SRA seal of approval. From fast-track licensing to crowdfunded litigation, alternative business structures to artificial intelligence, 'light touch' and flexible were the words of the day. This was an offer to work with practitioners, not work against them. We must not forget that behind all of this, regulation is there to protect the customer, client, consumer, and service user, as well as uphold professional and ethical standards. This is the course that the regulator will have to steer and, if innovation is necessary for survival, we may all be in for a bumpy ride.
With innovation comes change. The SRA has had to reinvent itself - just as the profession has - and will continue to. With this in mind, the time has come for me to step aside from my role as Solicitors Journal's editor at large. When I came to be the first practitioner to hold the title, I was counselled by several respected journalists (and a few lawyers, too), several many of whom suggested that I would someday have to choose which way I wanted my career to go. Even in the age of portfolio careers and citizen journalists, there would be a choice between two distinct paths before me.
Well, I'm not sure if I've reached that junction just yet, or, when I do, whether the roads will lead to destinations so very far apart. What I do know is that for the past two years I have been incredibly proud to represent Solicitors Journal, its readers, staff, and, at times, the profession. In its 160th year, the world's longest-running legal journal is, I hope, in a stronger position to address the challenges facing it in the 21st century, challenges that also face the legal profession.
Although I am unable to confirm whether I am being replaced by a robot, I can't deny it either.
If some form of intelligence does take over these pages in the coming weeks or months - artificial or otherwise - I can only apologise, and assure you that I'll be popping back from time to time with tangential thoughts, pithy comments, and maybe the occasional and perpetually grounding wise word and considered thought.
I hope to see many of you at the Solicitors Journal Awards on 25 May (tables are now available, just click here).
But, until the next time, thank you for your ongoing support for Solicitors Journal.
Kevin Poulter, editor at large