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Brave New World of the Law

Brave New World of the Law

By Steven Sapountsis


Good morning ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to our first Law Institute of Victoria “Insights” presentation.

I begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the lands on which we meet today, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nations. I offer my respect to their Elders past and present and extend that respect to anyone of Aboriginal or Torres Straits  Islander descent here today.

As this is our first “Insights” presentation, you are all special guests. But please let me acknowledge particularly the presence this morning of His Honour, Chief Magistrate Peter Lauritsen.

I also welcome council members Michael Lombard, Zubair Mian and Louise Akenson here today.

The Law Institute of Victoria would like to thank IBISWorld, PEXA, Your Law Firm and ANU Legal Workshop for supporting this event. Your Law Firm and ANU Legal Workshop have kindly donated door prizes, which includes a Fitbit and premium red wines. So please drop your business cards in the bowls at the entrance.

We are here this morning to learn something about the new world that awaits lawyers.

There has been much said and written about the considerable changes taking place, and that are forecast for the legal profession as a result of technology and its impact on the legal marketplace..

Interestingly, this is not an entirely new phenomenon.

Consider this brief exposition on technology and the law:

Law and technology have common characteristics of practicality, instrumentality and complexity of structure.

Both are eminently earthy enterprises. They are designed to solve problems which have occurred, and which human beings are  interested in solving in the ordinary course of their  lives.

The results of their application are most often  immediately and tangibly apparent to  those who have invoked them.

Because they are invoked in this way, the disciplines are fundamentally instrumental. They are orientated towards the attainment of  pre-set goals. Because these are problems occurring in the everyday  world,  and not merely in the laboratory  or the  library, they are usually complex.

Many different strands of technology and different areas of law are likely to be needed to be used in  combination to solve them. Technology may  be seen as the application of the rules of science  to  the solution of practical  problems,  and law as  the application to them of legal rules

That is from an Monash University Law Review article by Colin Tapper, entitled Genius and Janus: Information Technology and the Law" that dates back to 1985.

So clearly the marriage  of technology and the law is not new.

But it is also clear that there is now such a significant change in, or forecast for, the use or impact of technology in the practice of the law, that the process involved is now being labelled as “disruptive”.

Add to that the undoubted changing demands from clients for lawyers to “do more for less”, and we  can see why lawyers are asking for assistance to cope in the new legal environment.

How do we embrace that technology so that we can serve our clients better?

That is what we have come together to learn more about today.

I was a little hesitant about repeating too often the first part of the title of this presentation because, of course, the phrase   “Brave New World” most famously comes from Aldous Huxley’s dystopian novel, published in 1932, and which showed a fearful vision of a future in which technology comes to dominate humanity.

But today, we will hear a rather more optimistic envisioning of that new world and how we can respond to it.

Yes, it is challenging, but there are people who can help show the way.

One of those people  is Phil Ruthven (pronounced Rivven), a highly respected strategist and futurist on business, social and economic matters. 

Mr Ruthven founded business intelligence service, IBIS World forty years ago. IBISWorld provides business information, forecasting and strategic services to companies and industries in Australia and globally. He is also a director of the Institute of Applied Economics and Social Research at Melbourne University and is on the Committee for Economic Development of Australia.

Mr Ruthven has been informing Australians about the impacts of technology, as well as of social and demographic changes on businesses, professions and industry for many years. The strength of Mr Ruthven’s approach is that he draws on historical data, looking at cyclical and other trends, to forecast what is likely to happen in the future, and to suggest strategies to deal with that. 

This morning, Mr Ruthven will introduce the “state of the market” and how it is changing in Australia and around the world.

Can we draw on these broader insights to give us clues as to how our profession can respond strategically and optimistically to the changes that are only likely to accelerate over the coming years?

Please welcome Phil Ruthven to explore that question.   


Thank you  for those insights Phil.

And now we welcome a group of practitioners to talk about how they are introducing, responding to, and taking advantage of new technologies and  a changing market.

Scott Chamberlain is a Senior Lecturer at ANU’s Legal Workshop in the Masters of Legal Practice, and the founder of Wellspring Legal Pty Ltd, a NewLaw firm. He is also the chairman of the boutique Canberra corporate law firm, Chamberlains Law, and chairman of the ACT Screen Industry Association.

Ian Hendey is the Chief Practitioner Services Officer at Property Exchange Australia Limited (PEXA). PEXA has more than 3500 legal and conveyancing firms as part of its online property lodgement and settlement network. Prior to PEXA, Ian held senior leadership positions at a number of local and international financial institutions including ME Bank, GE Capital, Commonwealth Bank and ANZ.

Meda Royall, is the Founder and CEO of Your Law Firm, Australia's first franchised law firm, which delivers personalised legal services to local clients based on fixed, transparent fees. She has achieved many distinctions in her varied legal career, including finalist in the 2015 Law Institute of Victoria Awards as Suburban Lawyer of the Year.

David Wells is the Managing Principal at Moores. He was admitted to practice in 1984, and in 1993 he was accredited as a specialist in commercial litigation by the LIV. During the last five years, he has overseen the transition of Moores from a business model based on time recording and pricing to universal pricing for value. The firm is also experimenting with a range of other initiatives, which the Moores principals believe has equipped them well to take advantage of the new knowledge economy.

Moderating this panel session is someone whose passion for, and understanding and promoting the benefits of technology and innovation in the law is well known. Katie Miller is the immediate past president of the Law Institute and has been Chair of the Social Media Task force (now Technology and the Law committee). Most recently , she has been Innovation Counsel at the Victorian Government Solicitor’s Office, but is soon to take up a new appointment as the executive director of Legal Practice at Victoria Legal Aid.

During her time as president of the Law Institute, Katie Miller kept abreast of current developments in technology and in the legal marketplace, and enthusiastically sought to inform and educate the rest of the profession as to what was happening, and how we can use technology and remain relevant to clients.

Last year Katie conducted a study where she spoke to innovators in the profession in Australia and overseas, and collected her insights into a report called Disruption, Innovation and Change. The report was clear about the challenges that are facing the profession over the coming years, but it is also a positive document that aims to inspire and empower the profession to embrace change.

Now, let’s hear from some of those who have done just that.


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