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.
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.
Keeping Your Confidences
Helen McGhee considers the legal rights which allow individuals and companies to resist the disclosure of confidential evidence, and the limitations surrounding legal privilege.
The new powers tackling promoters of avoidance schemes
Under new proposals in draft Finance Bill 2021, HMRC will have wider information powers and be able to impose tougher sanctions on those who continue to promote or enable tax avoidance schemes. Whilst a robust approach to tackle unacceptable behaviour by a minority of promoters is entirely welcome, the new rules would arguably impose unnecessary administrative burdens on those operating within the law.
Draft Finance Bill 2020–21—promoters and enablers of tax avoidance schemes
Helen McGhee, senior associate at Joseph Hage Aaronson LLP, shares her insights on the Draft Finance Bill 2020–21 and its impact on promoters and enablers of tax avoidance schemes.
Apple and Ireland Win €13bn State Aid Appeal
The General Court of the European Union has today annulled the Commission’s decision regarding two Irish tax rulings in favour of Apple. The Commission had considered that the two rulings constituted State Aid, granting Apple €13bn in unlawful tax advantages.