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Judge: Island must embrace technological change

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Time for a change: Sir Geoffrey Vos, the UK’s Master of the Rolls (Photograph supplied)

Bermuda can be a world leader in the implementation of technological developments such as artificial intelligence — as long as the island is willing to “get with the programme“, according to a senior UK judge.

Sir Geoffrey Vos, who as Master of the Rolls is the second most senior judge in Britain, urged the island to embrace changing technologies, warning that advances were months, rather than years away.

Sir Geoffrey was the guest speaker at a Bermuda Bar Association conference on “Bench, Bar and Business in the Digital Age” at the Hamilton Princess & Beach Club yesterday.

Sir Geoffrey told the audience that it was essential for the legal system to adapt to developments quickly for the commercial sector to flourish.

He said: “The landscape has genuinely changed from analogue to digital over the last 25 years.

“The massive technological advancements have not all been accepted without question by lawyers. E-mail, cloud computing may, for example, have been quietly and universally adopted, but many lawyers still find it hard to perceive why AI should really affect what they do.

“Every business, every aspect of every financial consumer and industrial sector will be transformed by the emerging technologies in general and AI in particular.

“And this goes way beyond the law. It's already happening and it will accelerate as the exponential changes in AI, bringing it closer to artificial general intelligence on which tech giants are working currently.

“This is not years away, more like months. What is perhaps most interesting about this is that these technological changes are likely to affect the legal environment more than any of the other sectors.

“Digital assets are critical to international trade. Astonishingly, we are now in 2024. International sales of goods and international transportation transactions are still mostly using paper documents, paper bills of lading, fiat currencies, paper, bills of exchange.

“This cannot last long. Now that everything can be done more quickly and more cheaply using digital trading.

“The use of technology in society at large, more importantly than in the legal community has gone well beyond a tipping point.

“A reliable, predictable and dependable legal system is an absolute imperative for investor confidence and inward investment.”

Looking ahead: Sir Geoffrey made his remarks at a conference organised by the Bermuda Bar Association

Sir Geoffrey pointed out that the legal system provided the framework in which other sectors operated.

He said: “If something goes wrong in the financial sector, in banking, in insurance, energy, telecoms or pharmaceuticals, the issue that arises, whether litigious or not, is resolved by the application of legal principles.

“So if lawyers and judges do not quickly sort out the parameters of appropriate use of AI for themselves, how will their legal system be able properly to adjudicate on the appropriate use of AI in those other sectors?

“You as lawyers and judges need to take these developments very seriously indeed and prepare for reactions to them.

“The changes are global and you will be in the forefront of those changes in a rich country like Bermuda with a fantastically strong professional community. So I don't think there's any doubt that you can lead rather than follow.

“But I think the entire global professional community, particularly the legal community, needs to do a great deal more thinking along the lines I mentioned than has been done thus far.”

Sir Geoffrey said many hoped they could “retire before they have to consider any of this — and the answer is, they can't”.

“You guys, if I may respectfully say so, really need to get with the programme.”

Sir Geoffrey said that lawyers in the UK were already adapting to looming change through the creation of a digital justice system.

He said: “We're going to be deciding different disputes. There's going to be less factual determination. It'll be done more quickly, it'll be done online, it'll be done on chain.

“It's quite clear that machines will soon be able to give legal advice and make legal decisions as reliability and accurately as any human lawyer

“This is a system that brings together many existing forms of online digital dispute resolution, ombudsman portals, mediation and arbitration portals, consumer dispute resolution portals, online legal advice and legal aid into one coherent dispute resolution ecosystem.

“Users will be directed online to the portal that is most capable of resolving their problem or dispute. The digital justice system will use AI to identify people's problems and direct them to the right mechanism for their online resolution within an entirely digital ecosystem.

“We need to design the new legal infrastructure guided by the principles of justice, fairness, and the rule of law. Those are the principles that have underpinned our legal systems for the past centuries.”

Jason Hayward, the Minister of Economy and Labour, emphasised that the Government was working to create an environment in which both the legal system and commercial sector could take advantage of technological change.

During a welcoming speech delivered before Sir Geoffrey spoke, Mr Hayward said that Bermuda was well-placed to be “at the vanguard of the digital revolution”.

He said: “Our jurisdiction prides itself on having a robust legal framework, a forward-thinking business environment, and a highly educated workforce, making it an ideal hub for digital commerce and innovation. The Bermuda Bar’s focus on innovation, technology advancement and creating a sustainable digital ecosystem, aligns seamlessly with the Government's economic development strategy.

“By adopting advanced technology and embracing digital transformation, the Bar continues to contribute to our broader goal of an enhanced Bermuda business ecosystem, increasing global visibility and promoting investment.

“The digital age offers unprecedented opportunities for efficiency, transparency, and accessibility in legal and business practice. From blockchain technologies to artificial intelligence, the tools at our disposal can enhance our services and broaden our reach.

“However, these opportunities come with challenges including cybersecurity, privacy and data concerns, and the need for continual adoption to new tools and updated versions of those tools.

“I can certainly assure each and every one of you today that the Government is dedicating to supporting the legal community and business in the digital transition and through these challenges.

“We are investing in infrastructure, education, training, and policy development to nurture a dynamic ecosystem where companies and organisations can thrive. As you gather here today, I encourage you to engage in meaningful dialogue, share your experiences, and collaborate on shaping a digital future that is inclusive, secure, and prosperous for Bermuda.

“Together we can ensure our island home remains a premier destination for legal practice and conducting business in a digital age.”

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Published July 07, 2024 at 4:18 pm (Updated July 07, 2024 at 4:18 pm)

Judge: Island must embrace technological change

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