The Chancellor of the High Court has urged commercial lawyers to embrace the technologies driving modern businesses before they are left behind.
Giving the annual lecture for the Commercial Bar Association (COMBAR), Sir Geoffrey Vos, touched on the impact of climate change, big data and technological innovation on modern business.
Sir Geoffrey said modern business lawyers needs to understand the complexities of emerging technologies such as blockchain and crypto currencies, as well as artificial intelligence (AI).
“Practising commercial dispute resolution without understanding how artificial intelligence works and that it is likely to be used in every economic sector in the coming years, would appear to be somewhat risky”, he said.
Moreover, the senior judge said the industry needed to “build bridges with the technological community” to resist a tendency for technologists to distance themselves from law and explain “the added value that the law and dispute resolution can provide to the objectives of the technological community”.
He went on to urge the profession to “turn its incredible intellectual fire-power towards the development of the English common law, so that it can effectively tackle the problems thrown up by the use of big data, cryptoassets, on-chain smart contracts, and artificial intelligence.”
Imagining the future for business lawyer, Sir Geoffrey described “a cyber-world in which climate change and borderless technologies are each of great significance” but denied the idea of judges and lawyers being made redundant by technology.
Instead, he said: “Commercial dispute resolution will need to adapt to provide a more streamlined service to the national and international business community of the mid-21st century”, through the use of alternative dispute resolution, smart contracts and AI.
“My plea is that you do not leave it too late, because there are many other brilliant lawyers in other jurisdictions who are motivated to steal a march on their common law colleagues in the UK,” he said.
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