Reminiscent of the Law Society of England and Wales’ unpopular endorsed IT supplier scheme, The Bar Council has entered into a commercial partnership with SproutIT – the first known legal technology company to enter the Bar Council’s portfolio of approved service partners.
Service partners, which range from insurance providers to wealth managers, pay to become an exclusive, approved provider to the Bar, offering members bespoke beneficial packages as part of the Bar Council membership card.
SpoutIT provides a range of services from technical support to consultancy, project management and advice on IT strategy. It will be focussing particularly on helping chambers to improve their governance and cyber security awareness and protection. While SproutIT is currently the only legal tech service partner, a spokesman for the Bar said: “We may have others in future, depending on demand, but won’t sign a partner that does something similar to an existing partner.”
The Bar Council’s service partner arrangement echoes the Law Society’s preferred IT supplier endorsement scheme launched in 2014, which saw the Law Society endorse, among others, Eclipse Legal Systems as sole case and practice management supplier to the legal industry, as part of a commercial arrangement.
That scheme drew heavy criticism from the Legal Software Suppliers Association, which argued that law firms ought to have freedom of choice in their technology provider and that the endorsement programme lacked transparency.
While the Bar Council’s scheme appears more limited, in that it is pitched as a members’ benefit scheme, the fact that these vendors are Bar Council ‘approved’; that members are incentivised to use them; that the appointment is paid for; and that the scheme excludes other similar vendors, can be expected to ruffle a few feathers.
SproutIT, an approved broker of Criminal Justice Secure eMail, was appointed after a review but, at the time of going to press, the Bar Council had yet to clarify the precise process used to appoint the vendor.
Matt Torrens, managing director of SproutIT told Legal IT Insider: “We’re the trusted provider for the Bar Council; they can access our expertise from any chambers and we can offer global best practice.
“There was some collateral around it but it is more of a trade-off. Some of the products we’re licensed for around cyber awareness were attractive to the Bar Council.”