The Law Society:
What are the key issues you’ll be focussed on in 2022?

Andrew McWhir - Policy advisor for
The Law Society.

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2022 is going to be a defining year for the legal sector in a number of respects. 

As society continues to unwind restrictions, there are opportunities to learn lessons from the adaptations lawyers have made to meet client needs. Clients now have different expectations about how they communicate with their solicitors, for example, and the Law Society will be continuing to help members think about more client-centred approaches to delivering legal services.

We want to help start-ups and gear-ups looking to exploit this increased openness to new ideas and this provides an added incentive for our work with Eagle Labs to promote a dialogue about better products.

On the regulatory front, the last half of 2021 brought two important consultations that will have lasting impacts on digital trade and the future of data protection in the UK, and we’ll be closely monitoring the impacts of these for solicitors’ businesses and their clients into 2022.  The first of these consultations was from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), the independent data regulator in the UK, concerning the future of global data transfers idta consultation.

Many member firms, which relatively recently (2018) adapted to the requirements of the GDPR regime, will be closely watching the next steps from the ICO governing the manner in which data transfers from the UK to other jurisdictions are managed and regulated (and the tools and guidance available to govern transfers). Of particular interest to smaller firms will be the magnitude of due diligence required before transferring personal data to jurisdictions deemed not to have data protection regimes comparable to the UK’s.

The Law Society will be working to minimise the impacts of any regulatory duplication, bureaucratic inefficiency, and added costs for our sector.

The other - broader - consultation we’re closely tracking issued from the Department for Media, Culture and Sports (DCMS) in the Autumn Data: a new direction.  This was a wide-ranging first stage consultation with potentially far-reaching implications for the current UK GDPR regime.

The Law Society supports the ambition of the Government for digital trade to form an important part of future trade deals which, combined with the UK’s academic, technological, and entrepreneurial skills, and our global standing as a centre for finance and investment, put us in a good position to capitalise on future growth.

We will continue to caution, however, about the importance of maintaining high standards of protection for data subject rights so that the UK remains a global leader in this area also.

Of course - and this could just as easily be at the top of my list for the new year - is cyber security.

As has been highlighted in Law Tech Bytes previously, the highest level of information security standards are required of legal practitioners, and needs to form a key element in any law tech ‘pitch’.  Ransomware attacks became an increasingly prevalent feature of the economy in 2021, including on barristers’ chambers.

No part of the global economy is exempt, but my colleagues and I are working closely with partners in government and at the Bar to respond with enhanced tools and guidance for our members.

Elsewhere on cyber, I’m currently looking with colleagues at the UK’s new National Cyber Strategy which was published just before Christmas cyber strategy for clues about the Government’s plans for investment and collaboration. 

And I’m looking at the recently published Product Security and Telecommunications Infrastructure (PSTI) Bill, and tracking the role of the Government’s cybersecurity regulator who will be appointed on the PSTI’s Royal Assent psti bill.

Another major focus of my work in 2021 has been examining with Law Society experts the Law Commission’s emerging thinking as set out in its consultations on smart contracts, digital assets, and electronic trade documents Law Commission

Ensuring the law of England and Wales is future-proof against new ways of trading and documenting exchange in the digital economy is the focus and we’ll be considering and responding to this ongoing work in the new year.

That’s a full agenda of issues for the sector in 2022, even before we allow for the unexpected!

I’m really looking forward to what our partnership with Eagle Labs can do to enhance our responses to the risks and opportunities they present.

Andrew is a legal technology and data regulation policy advisor at the Law Society of England & Wales.


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