Katie Dyson was featured on Legal Brief’s website discussing the future of the English and Welsh judicial system as predicted by sir Geoffrey Vos. The full article can be read following the link here or below.
Speaking at London International Disputes Week, Vos advocated a switch from analogue to digital justice, with the view of ensuring that the legal industry maintains the confidence of its users and stays at the forefront of global dispute resolution.
International disputes are a staple of the judicial system; between 2020 and 2021, 74% of the Commercial Court’s caseload was classed as non-domestic. The certainty, transparency and integrity of our courts inspire confidence in foreign parties, who in turn invest substantial sums into our legal industry.
While our positioning on the global stage is rightly a source of pride, we must not become complacent. In the words of Vos, we must do all that we can to make our dispute resolution systems “as attractive as they can be to their users in general and to the international business community in particular”. If we fail to move with the times, we will appear antiquated and lose the confidence of our users.
Sir Geoffrey’s vision
To maintain its competitive advantage, Vos proposed that the legal industry undertake a radical shift from systems and processes founded on “strict analogue rules” to a form of digital justice which reflects and exploits the information age. Adversarial systems founded on an exchange of pleadings and inquisitorial systems subject to strict evidential rules were created for a different era. In particular:
- Our analogue system assumes that decision-making tribunals know nothing. In the age of the internet and blockchain technology, this is unrealistic.
- Significant time is spent establishing “basic facts” which, in most cases, can be settled “immediately and incontrovertibly” via the examination of mobile devices and electronic communications.
- Access to legal resources including precedents and case law is no longer reserved to the legal community; publicly available legal databases such as the National Archives’ Find Case Law feature have made these materials accessible to all.
Vos’ vision of digital justice harnesses artificial intelligence, smart processes and algorithms to “deliver timely outcomes for consumers and businesses at a cost that is properly proportionate to the issues at stake”. The repetitive processes and reams of paper that currently characterise large scale litigation will become a thing of the past.
Most importantly, the digital justice system will provide “integrated mediated interventions” to propose how a dispute may be resolved at every stage of the process.
It should be noted that Vos’ vision does not dispose of human input; users should have recourse to a (human) judge and lawyers will continue to add value for their clients. However, digital justice will allow for the proportionate resolution of disputes in an environment which reflects our modern world and, vitally, will ensure that confidence in our judicial system is maintained.
The vision of a smart, global and cost-effective judicial system founded on digital justice certainly meets the theme of this year’s London International Disputes Week: Dispute Resolution – Global, Sustainable, Ethical?
The legal community must match Vos’ ambition by leading the transition to a form of digital justice which truly reflects the world in which we live. Such forward thinking is essential for our judicial system to maintain its key position on the global stage.
Change is never easy and it will not come about overnight. With that being said, the legal community should take comfort from its accomplishments over the past 18 months.
While e-bundling, virtual hearings and video conferencing are a world away from the broad and ambitious vision presented by Vos, they demonstrate the resilience and adaptability of our community.
During the Covid-19 lockdown, change that may otherwise have taken years to come about was accelerated so that we could adapt to new and largely unforeseen circumstances. Similar enthusiasm and drive must now be deployed to make Vos’ vision a reality.