Vos unveils group to help steer civil justice system into the future

Susskind: Group chair

The Master of the Rolls has named legal futurist Professor Richard Susskind as chair of a new high-powered group tasked with drawing a road-map for the civil justice system through the 2020s.

Professor Susskind, who is technology adviser to the Lord Chief Justice among various roles, is leading the Civil Justice Council’s (CJC) futures group.

Professor Susskind said Sir Geoffrey Vos, the Master of the Rolls and chair of the CJC, had asked him to take the post.

The group has been given four jobs:

  • To take and encourage a long-term view of the impact of technology on the administration of justice, with emphasis on increasing access to justice and securing the position of the legal system of England and Wales as a global leader;
  • To monitor emerging and likely technological developments;
  • To advise on whether current systems and activities are feasible in the long run; and
  • To propose a road-map for the justice system through the 2020s.

It will produce periodic reports through the CJC, consult with experts and court users, and convene meetings and events.

Professor Susskind headed a CJC advisory group which in February 2015 produced a report calling for state-backed online dispute resolution.

He wrote recently that “we are at the foothills of the transformation in court services”, saying a year of video hearings did not constitute “a lasting revolution in court service” but had shown the potential for improving the justice system.

He stressed that his thinking about the future of courts has always extended far beyond video hearings. “We are just warming up… In the coming years we will develop many online techniques for dissolving and diverting disputes.”

Sir Geoffrey has also made clear in multiple speeches his determination to create a system of online dispute resolution, suggesting only last month that online bots powered by artificial intelligence would be one way simple disputes were resolved in the future.

The group’s membership is drawn widely, with Nick Hanning, a former president of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives, and a consultant at London firm Anthony Gold, the only member of the CJC on the group, with His Honour Judge Mark Gosnell, designated civil judge for Leeds and Bradford, the only judge.

They are joined by:

  • Shruti Ajitsaria, head of Fuse, City firm Allen & Overy’s tech innovation space;
  • Professor Katie Atkinson, professor of computer science and dean of the School of Electrical Engineering, Electronics and Computer Science at Liverpool University, as well as a past president of the International Association for AI and Law;
  • Dr Natalie Byrom, director of research and learning at the Legal Education Foundation who has led calls for more justice system data;
  • Nick Pryor, regional innovation solutions director at City firm Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner;
  • Karen Rea, a barrister at Queen Square Chambers in Bristol;
  • Fiona Rutherford, director of access to justice policy, Ministry of Justice;
  • Julia Salasky, a solicitor and founder of Legl and Crowdjustice;
  • Bjarne Tellmann, senior vice-president and general counsel at GSK Consumer Healthcare; and
  • Dr Mimi Zou, co-founder of the Deep Tech Dispute Resolution Lab at Oxford University.

The council said the membership of the group would be reviewed periodically.

In 2019, the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Burnett, named Professor Susskind as chair of an advisory group to provide senior judges with guidance on artificial intelligence.

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