Future Law

Insight | February 2017

Future Law
Image: ‘Into the Future’ by Trilby Cole

The world is in an increasing state of flux, and we are all racing to keep up. While there are countless casualties of the speed at which this is happening, the emerging impact upon law, and how it is both written and applied, is in need of collective address. We cannot reasonably hope to continue existing as island communities, instead there is a genuine need to share a goal of jurisdictional interdependence; a process that is already in delicate motion, despite entrenched political and religious divergence, or the increased polarity of wealth.

How these legal adjustments will materialise is still hard to quantify with precision, but there is evidently a number of academic and professional opinions echoing a similar message, and it is perhaps time that the global community started to at least consider the plausibility a uniform rule of law, instead of assuming that the status quo can continue to remain effective.

Regular contributor to domestic industry news is The Law Society, whose recent article ‘The Future of Legal Services‘ touches upon a number of nationally indicative trends that convey a similar pattern to those held here; and key elements such as the growth of national and international economies, along with the quantum progression of technology, are instrumental in shaping emerging legal practices and the prevalence of market-adjusted pricing. However, it is just as important to note that the converging of political manifestos will ultimately produce a narrowing of access to justice, through global regulation and a fierce preservation of economic interests.

In fact, one of the many questions asked of law graduates seeking training contracts, is how they feel the merging of investment and banking sectors will influence the overall operation of multi-national law firms, as a growing number seek consolidation to navigate the undercurrent of change. While it is a reasonable question in itself, it demonstrates a lack of cognisant awareness to the effects of destabilisation, despite history showing that the only real constant is change.

In contrast, we need only look at driverless cars to appreciate the impact automation of transport will have upon civil litigation and road traffic accident claims, as after all who becomes liable when injury does occur? There are also suggestions that mechanised judges could prove the way forward when trying to manage the algorithms of robot-created journalism, and how best to decipher the rights from the wrongs, as was discussed in a recent paper in the European Journal of Law and Technology; an article that ponders not only possible extinction of the human prose, but the relevance of solicitors when complex cases require meticulous attention to detail, and a diverse range of case material to help develop laws.

Similarly, when an internationally administrative view is expressed, the cautionary sentiments remain just as poignant when considering that the reluctance to welcome organic growth leaves a lot to be desired. This concern was remarked by Angel Gurria OECD Secretary-General back in 2015, when she spoke at the UK Global Law Summit and warned:

“The classic model for the development of international law is not always adapted or even adequate to this rapidly changing environment. In contrast, the negotiation of major international conventions or agreements is often slow and painful. In some cases  it has come to a complete standstill.”

So when we contemplate the hybrid mechanisation of justice and legal discourse, we also embrace a fear that risks crippling those students seeking to secure their place in all areas of practice. Although there is no doubt that an empathic and world-experienced lawyer can undoubtedly help lead the charge into this new era of dispute resolution. However, such an endorsement is shallow by design if the industry does nothing to exploit attributive software in lieu of effective human centred mediation, as was pointed out by Adam Nguyen of Law Technology Today, who writes:

“Although technology is taking over many aspects of lawyer’s jobs, automated tools are adept at rescuing lawyers from low-level and repetitive tasks, such as document management, contract review, filing, docketing, billing and accounting which bear little connection to law practice but increasingly consume much of lawyers’ time.”

Whichever way we choose to look at it, the increasingly immediate need to synergise with autonomous (and ultimately supportive) forms of non-human legal administration (and even algorithmic case determination) is inching closer, and while it may send shivers up some spines, it would be unwise to overlook the total number of fail cases falling victim to poor preparation, and the unimaginative cross-referencing of legal resources; all of which dilutes down to shedding the fear in the face of this unavoidable truth, in order to nurture better lawyers, lawmakers and judges, regardless of geography and jurisdiction.

 

Author: Neil Egan-Ronayne

Author, publisher and foodie...

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