Written by Sammy Nanneh and Charles Feeny

A great deal of light has recently been shed on the advent of technology in our legal system. Moore’s law, that the number of transistors on integrated circuits doubles about every two years, has long buttressed society’s technological revolution. It has meant exponential growth in the technological sector, with no end in sight.

With this in mind, this article will seek to briefly analyse the potential impact of properly harnessing the power of future technology into our old and traditional legal system. This will be done in three short parts. Part one will explain the notion of a ‘rebel city’ and why our – at times archaic – provision of legal services could do with an overhaul. Part two will seek to present the technological revolution as the key pathway for this overhaul. Part three will look specifically at the potential for our legal system to take a leading role in the wider technological revolution and the rise of the ‘digital city’.

Part one – Defining the ‘rebel city’

What is a ‘rebel city’? One of the primary elements of the Enlightenment that dominated the world of ideas in Europe in the 18th Century was the rise of the ‘public sphere’. At the core of this was a realm of communication, marked by new arenas of debate, more open and accessible forms of urban public space and an explosion of print culture. Secrecy and the concealment of ideas was, in theory at least, the gravest of sins. Cities, brimming with the very people that harboured these ideas, became the conduit through which social progress could be pursued. But this soon came under the attack and exploitation of a capitalist system based on endless profit, infinite consumption and sprawling urban growth no matter what the social, environmental or political consequences.

Against this backdrop, the notion of what David Harvey refers to as a ‘rebel city’ can be explained. It is only through the city itself, from the bottom-up, that we may return to the glory days of our cities as the home of diverse collectivism, innovation and free thought. This requires a broader, revolutionary movement in our rebel city.

In what sort of format has the capitalist hijacking reared its head? One example is through the creation of exclusionary urban spaces to which the commons lack access. It is not hard to conjure up the image of gated communities, or glass towers, to which only a privileged few may access the expensive delights within. The window cleaner is left to ogle from without. To tackle this, the social practice of ‘commoning’ can be undertaken . At the heart of this is that the relation between the social group and that aspect of the environment being treated as common shall be collectivised and less commodified. One may see this as a partial reversion to a previous age, proud to have based itself firmly in the democratic delight of intellectual collectivism.

If exclusionary practices continue, then those who promote diversity, efficiency and openness in society will lose out to the predatory practices of upper class consumers. Such consumers may lack any social imagination and find themselves unknowingly constrained by the bureaucratic chains of history, paying higher costs for less valuable end products. Worrying indeed. In light of this, the ‘rebel city’ and the right to reclaim it must be construed as a right to rebuild and recreate the city as a socialist body politic in a completely different image. One facet of this rebuilding is to put the power back into the hands of the common consumer. In the legal world, the best way to achieve this is through a rebel city taking a 21st Century form. We shall call this the ‘digital city’.

Part 2 – Rebel cities as digital cities

Our rebel city is a digital one. New technologies continue to usher in a revolutionary conquest against the traditional and ever more dated lifeblood of our economy. Until recently, this lifeblood took the form of face-to-face interaction with clients, long nights spent spilling ink on paper and a pressing need to have drawers fully stocked with first-class stamps. The traditional rigid and time-consuming mechanisms of our economy (particularly in the services industry) and the status quo of the players within it, be they big or small, face an immense upheaval. This upheaval takes the form of technological advances oozing in potential for efficiency, cost-saving and innovation. The relevant players in their respective industries will at this moment face a choice. To entrench their positions, resting on their laurels and hoping the revolution will not result in a coup, or to embrace the opportunity for a fundamental reconceptualisation of the industry they are in.

This revolution is being conducted through the use of widely accessible products such as kindles and smartphones, devices spurred on by the ammo of unlimited internet connectivity. Even noises and sounds are not safe from the threat of extinction. The youthful newcomers reading this, (those best equipped to embrace and enjoy the technological revolution) will hardly remember the noise that once escaped a struggling dial-up modem. Faced with such a revolution, a modern economy based firmly on the principles of endless profit and consumption, is scrambling to adjust. No sector is immune.

One need only look to our Baltic neighbours to see the mind-boggling potential of a digital city. In Estonia, the birthplace of Skype, a technological revolution is being conducted by the gradual creation of a ‘digital sovereign’. Estonia has taken ground-breaking steps to put its entire state online. In 2011, 97% of tax returns were made online. Voting is conducted online, and laws are signed into effect with a digital signature. Cabinet meetings are paperless. For €50 anyone can become an e-resident of Estonia and take advantage of the simplified, infrastructure of a state that exists online. In an extreme scenario, imagine the state was invaded and annexed. The state in its original form could be put on a memory stick and simply booted up from anywhere in the world.

Part 3 – The ‘legal digital city’

The potential for an entire country’s infrastructure to be digitalised poses a strong indication of where the future of the law could be heading, a ‘legal digital city’. But do not take my word for it, Lord Justice Ryder as recently as last week has urged for a web-based expansion of justice and the rationalisation of the judiciary. He has called for the replacement of the ‘post-Victorian superstructure’ of courts and tribunals with a modern, paperless system. This would be based on online access and a streamlined judiciary in order to realise the values embodied in the Magna Carta (enjoying its 800th birthday) and to increase access to justice.

But it is not only the courts and tribunals that will eventually reek of archaism. It is not a mere dream to imagine a world in which one day the glass towers of our cities will be replaced with a digital city. The legal sector, long plagued by the issue of excessive costs and bureaucracy, could yet lead the way in this revolutionary endeavour.

As Harvey puts it, ‘the question of what kind of city we want cannot be divorced from the question of what kind of people we want to be, what kinds of social relations we seek and what style of life we desire. It is a collective rather than an individual right, since reinventing the city inevitably depends upon the exercise of a collective power over the processes of urbanisation’.

It is in that context that Lord Justice Ryder’s assertion that the very realisation of fundamental aspects of the Rule of Law depends on a comprehensive embrace of the digital revolution by the legal sector. The legal world has an immeasurably valuable opportunity to take the lead in representing the cutting-edge progressiveness of society’s digital revolution. The boost to self-employment and the innovation, cost-saving and diversity associated with it, means that it is in no uncertain terms that it can be stated that the ultimate rebel city in the legal world of the 21st century is a digital one.

“Cities are never random. No matter how chaotic they might seem, everything about them grows out of a need to solve a problem. In fact, a city is nothing more than a solution to a problem, that in turn creates more problems that need more solutions, until towers rise, roads widen, bridges are built, and millions of people are caught up in a mad race to feed the problem-solving, problem-creating frenzy”


Read on for Charles Feeny’s explanation on the case of McGeer v Macintosh in his latest note, “Paving a Safer Way for Cyclists?” on our Pro-VIDE site. This case involved a cyclist who undertook a stationary car at traffic lights and then cycled to the nearside of an HGV which was indicating to turn left. Mr. Feeny acted as the Claimant’s counsel on this case. You can also download an official copy of the final judgment on McGeer here.

Charles Feeny is recognised by Chambers & Partners as ‘working at the forefront of technological changes for the legal services with our digital business – Complete Counsel.’

Charles Feeny is recognised by Chambers & Partners as ‘working at the forefront of technological changes for the legal services with our digital business – Complete Counsel.’

Charles is also recognised for his superb advocacy skills and the ability to always be relied upon to provide the right answer in complex and high value cases together with an ‘innovative approach’ to clin neg litigation.

Court of Appeal Judgment on Reaney v University Hospital of North Staffordshire Trust and Another

The Court of Appeal have today handed down Judgment on the case of Reaney v University Hospital of North Staffordshire Trust and Another. Read on for Charles Feeny’s explanation of the Judgment here.

Event: Mock Inquest

Date: 30/10/2015 Time: 9:30 am – 12:30 pm @ Hempsons, Harrogate

The inquest is based on the tragic tale of Bill Sikes. After a night out, Bill trips over and falls when leaving a tavern. He is admitted to Great Expectations Hospital where he, whilst left on his own on a trolley in A&E, falls off and hits his head again and ultimately dies from an acute subdural haemorrhage – right sided.

The mock inquest will play out the hearing and Coroner’s findings.

Complete Counsel will provide three parts – the coroner and counsel for Claimant and Defendant.

Lorraine Mensah acting for President Obama’s cousin

Complete Counsel barrister Lorraine Mensah representing the Claimant in high profile case for harassment against the Met Police.

Bright White Line Law: the follow on…

Thank you for attending our symposium last Wednesday. The event was a great success (despite the weather) and provided an opportunity to really get to grips with a difficult area of the law. Thank you to those who participated on the panel and gave such interesting talks. For my part, I feel that the difference in award of damages is an under analysed area and given the current cost of clinical negligence one that needs discussing. My opinions on the decision and applicability of Bailey v MoD are no great secret but there is an interesting point as to whether the current interpretation of material contribution to damage can be applied in Popple.

Finally, I believe that the difference in opinion between the clinicians and the court is worth highlighting. In time pressured medicine is the court too focused on artificial timings and are the best efforts of doctors being unreasonably categorised as negligent where there is simply no explanation?

Please contribute further to this discussion.

Complete Counsel wishes to engage a paralegal

Complete Counsel wishes to engage a paralegal to assist barristers using the service and in the management of the service. Tasks will include:-
1 Research of legal authorities and literature for use in litigation .
2 Research for articles and training events.
3 Management of web based activity and blogs.
4 Assistance in planning and organisation of seminars and other marketing events .
5 Attendance at conferences and court for note taking and support.
6 Other research and assistance in the management of Complete Counsel and parallel brands.
Law graduate or equivalent. Strong academic record and genuine interest in the law needed.
remuneration negotiable and hours flexible. Applications by email in the first instance to:

The Shed: The First Six Months

When I announced at the beginning of this year that I was going to practise from my shed, it created some surprise, in particular amongst those credulous enough to believe it.

So how has it gone? Well, overall I feel quite liberated and close to nature. There have been some downsides, in particular a few spats with the gardener when I got in his way as he has tried to remove tools. Also I have had some terse emails from members of the Bar who do actually work from their shed and thought that I was mocking them.

As many have now realised, “the shed” was essentially a metaphor for the remote and flexible way of working now possible in the digital age.

So how has the metaphorical shed gone? From a personal perspective, I feel quite liberated but not necessarily close to nature (actually, I generally work indoors).IMG_0328

Having spent many years working in traditional Chambers in traditional buildings, it never really occurred to me that this was in some way psychologically inhibiting. Shed working, even at the metaphorical level, is much less routine or structure driven and I have the feeling that within reasonable limits, I can do what I want, when I want and how I want.

When Barristers ask me about Complete Counsel, their initial impression is that it is a virtual Chambers or an alternative Chambers. However, it is not a Chambers at all; it is a different way of supporting a Barrister’s practice.

We are developing parallel digital brands. I think of parallel brands rather like the Gremlins in the Spielberg film. Once you have one, it seems you can multiply them very quickly.

Complete Counsel was set up as a sister business to Document Direct. Once Complete Counsel was established, it became possible at really minimal cost to develop parallel brands. We have now launched Complete Mediation. We are in the process of developing two further parallel brands; one focusing on HR and Employment and another more generally on litigation.

Whilst the terms synergy and strategy are vogue expressions now widely used with scant regard for their meaning, they can be used to describe the development of parallel brands which could be considered to be either strategically synergistic or possibly synergistically strategic. Each brand will create opportunities and contact which can be fed through to the other brands. Digitalisation and deregulation are changing the market for legal services beyond recognition. It is apparent that there are those who are seeking to adapt existing structures and practice to these challenges, but others who realise that in reality, they have to operate in a different way. The latter group appear to have a much more positive attitude and understand the real opportunities being presented. It is conspicuous that we are able to form informal alliances with similar minded individuals and practices to our mutual advantage. These alliances carry with them none of the psychological baggage of a Practice or Chambers, or even require formal agreement.

So perhaps the thought of an inevitable improvement in the weather and a summer in the shed is making me too sanguine.IMG_0338

The town shed has amazing views.

A final thought. The modern Bar emerged from the 18th Century, that is from the date Barristers rode behind the Judge and his retinue literally on a circuit. The individuals who followed this way of life inevitably had to be robust and independent. They had to take what work they could find. The Defendants were often illiterate and incapable of giving meaningful instructions. Capital punishment was the usual outcome. The Judges of those days did not have the benefit of a Judicial College to advise them of appropriate behaviour in court. The tradition of a robust and independent Bar was forged by these early Barristers. A Barrister in reality needed only one essential item, that is a horse. Now, a Barrister only needs one essential item, that is a laptop. So perhaps the changes now afoot will act as a backdrop to the recrudescence of a robust and independent Bar.

Event: Too much information

1/10/2015 @ 4pm-6pm, Weightmans Liverpool

A seminar exploring the recent cases of Montgomerie and Spencer and the issues involved in reasonable consent to medical treatment. The current state of the law will be discussed but also the speakers will consider the broader clinical, practical , and psychological perspectives in determining the appropriate information to be given to a patient.

Speakers include:

• Professor Graeme Poston, Consultant Surgeon;

• Professor Gus Baker, Neuro-Psychologist; and

• Charles Feeny, barrister

For further information please contact