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Technology drives change


Cite as: August 2015 89 (8) LIJ, p.12

When acclaimed author Richard Susskind predicted in 1996 that lawyers would increasingly communicate with their clients through email, the Law Society of England and Wales wanted him banned from public speaking.

The society did not get its way, and its fears that email would erode client confidentiality proved unfounded. Professor Susskind continues to write books on the future of the legal profession, focusing on how technology and the internet will change how lawyers work. He also serves as IT adviser to the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales.

Professor Susskind was the keynote speaker at the Australasian Institute of Judicial Administration’s conference on courts and tribunal technology held in Brisbane in May.

In an age when more people in the world own mobile phones than toothbrushes, he urged attendees to embrace the possibilities offered by rapidly advancing technologies. “For me, the big driver of change in the legal world and society in general over the next 10 to 20 years is technology,” Professor Susskind told the conference.

He said technology was not just about doing things quicker and cheaper, and challenged attendees to think laterally about the basic value of the work they do and how technology could be used to deliver it.

“Technology is not standing still. We have to view the technology as a way to change the way we work, not just to streamline the way we worked in the past,” he said.

Professor Susskind has called for radical change in how England and Wales handles low-value civil claims.

In a Civil Justice Council report that “created a huge stir” in the UK, he recommended that disputes be resolved through a three-tier online process that would involve:

  • claimants conducting an online evaluation of their problem to understand the options available to them;
  • disputes needing further intervention being handled by an online facilitator for adjudication; and
  • a judge deciding any unresolved disputes, using teleconferencing and videoconferencing to electronically communicate with the parties.
  • Professor Susskind said that implementing the report’s recommendations would provide cheaper and increased access to justice.

    Mobile phones
  • More people in the world own mobile phones than toothbrushes.
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