There was a time in the not too distant past when the courts were a thing of mystery to large swathes of the population in this country. I know this because clients would regularly react with fear when I mentioned a court or they would admit that the protocols, traditions, paperwork and, often, rulings were completely alien. I get the feeling though that this has changed over the last decade.
Some of this is down to television and film. At one point, with the exception of the austere Crown Court lunchtime soap in the late 70s, the only courtrooms people would regularly see on screen were those in Hollywood blockbusters, often starring Tom Cruise. Now it is more commonplace. However, a lot of it is down to the hugely increased use of the internet and advent of social media.
And the legal sector should be making more of this to inform and demystify. Some are embracing it more than others. Last week came the news that the Supreme Court had launched itself on Twitter. This institution has allowed Tweeting from its courtrooms since February last year but it is now active there itself also. The intention is to use Twitter (follow @UKSupremeCourt), to let people know the outcome of cases and other related news in a bid to make proceedings as accessible as possible.
I’m not sure the Tweets I have seen here so far have excited me particularly but they should be applauded for getting involved. We should all be working harder to make the legal sector more accessible.
Websites with plain English information and links to related services are a step in the right direction. Engagement with the public on Twitter, Facebook, Linked In and other social media channels can only enhance this – and serve as a useful business tool in driving website traffic and drawing in potential new clients.
It is unfortunate then that this is not an outlook shared across the service. While I am heartened by this move by the Supreme Court, it still grates that generally we cannot make electronic payments or routinely use email to exchange documents with the courts. In this respect, the legal sector is still very much behind most other business sectors in embracing new technology.