A paperless future for the legal profession?
For anyone old enough to remember the mountains of paper that clogged up offices in the 90s, the idea of a paperless working environment may seem revolutionary. Keeping paper files has been the rule for so long, particularly for law firms, that there are vast quantities of records that need to be dealt with.
What does a ‘paperless office’ actually look like, beyond IBM’s early marketing slogan? It would probably be unrealistic to assume that we can eliminate all paper – though progress is being made. And why is a move to a paperless office actually important? The easy answer is that it saves on physical space, important in big cities such as London, where commercial property prices are significant.
Less paper can also mean fewer resources being expended on document management – less processing, organising and destroying of paper, which typically requires a lot of (relatively expensive) human input. The environmental benefit of using less paper is also considerable, and would greatly assist with firms’ corporate responsibility and carbon footprint. And finally, failing to maintain and update paper files can be a breach of anti-money laundering (AML) rules; it is reported that as many as 37% of UK law firms rely on paper-based records to fulfil their AML reporting obligations. This is worrying, and mandates drastic improvement of record-keeping processes.
A move towards keeping less paper seems like a no-brainer. Even the largest academic institutions have jumped on the bandwagon. The London School of Economics is leading the way in digitising its archives and improving accessibility to material which is of public interest. For law firms, however, eliminating paper may prove more difficult. This is in part to do with an engrained pro-paper mentality in the legal profession, but also with issues around data security and client confidentiality. Lawyers need to learn to trust digital repository systems, and understand how to use them. In particular, cloud storage (whereby data is effectively stored online) is routinely used by companies in other industries, and comes with built-in data security features, which is all the more vital given the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
Law firms can and should consider using digital storage platforms, and should do so responsibly, by monitoring access and visibility to the uploaded content, as the Law Society itself advises. Moreover, such platforms support flexibility in working practices by enabling robust mobile and remote working. In the words of Scott McNealy, former CEO of Sun Microsystems, ‘We believe we’re moving out of the Ice Age, the Iron Age, the Industrial Age, the Information Age, to the participation age. You get on the Net and you do stuff’. Given you are most likely reading this on your desktop or device, it’s hard to argue with that.
The DBKAG & K (CJEU) decision: an opportunity for investment funds?
On 17 June 2021, the European Court decided the joint cases K (C-58/20) and DBKAG (C-59/20) regarding whether the supply of certain services constituted the “management of special investment funds”, benefiting from the VAT exemption enshrined in Article 135(1)(g) of Council Directive 2006/112/EC.
Raising the bar: UK Supreme Court clarifies the requirements for HMRC to issue Follower Notices
On 2 July 2021, the Supreme Court delivered its judgment in R (on the application of Haworth) v HMRC  UKSC 25, finding unanimously in favour of the taxpayer and upholding the Court of Appeal’s decision to quash the follower notice issued to him.
The Danish Supreme Court decides the Fidelity case
The Fidelity case concerned claims brough by three undertakings for collective investment in transferable securities (UCITS) for the repayment of Danish withholding tax on dividends received from companies resident in Denmark between 2000 and 2009. The Supreme Court rejected the claims on the grounds that the Fidelity UCITS did not fulfil the conditions for the exemption provided by Danish law.
A yellow card for footballers and their agents……let’s bring in another match official
There has been long running tension between HMRC and the way that footballers and their agents are remunerated. As the Professional Footballers’ Association wade into the debate, Helen McGhee discusses the problems arising from agents’ fees and image rights.