The smartphone generation will not accept the delays inherent in justice systems according to Sir Geoffrey Vos, Chancellor of the High Court.  “We will need to move fast to develop Online Dispute Resolution and other forms of speedier alternative dispute resolution, before the millennials lose faith in the way the older generation is content to deliver justice,” he said, speaking at a Legal Business Seminar in Frankfurt.

Sir Geoffrey believes that Online Dispute resolution, which is already used in the UK for some types of small claim up to £25,000, will ultimately be used for commercial disputes.  “We need to get our Online Dispute Resolution processes right, so that they can take their place in the court structure to speed up the delivery of justice and bring our justice systems into the 21st century.”

Vos also predicts that judges will need to get up to speed with computer code to deal with new style ‘smart contracts’ which are now being used by big businesses.  These are executed automatically with tamper-proof encrypted code.  Vos is dismissive of suggestions that these smart contracts will eliminate future disputes. “You cannot have three trillion contracts per year globally without expecting some of them to give rise to a dispute,” he said.

We need to ensure that our judges are sufficiently educated in the legal basis of them, and in the computer code that underlies them, so that we can deal with these disputes and help to shape the legal environment in which these revolutionary developments will occur.”

Sir Geoffrey believes that new technology which forecasts the outcome of disputes, will be useful to businesses in identifying the most likely outcomes of uncertain litigation.  But he does not expect this to eliminate future litigation.  “Not all decision-makers, even in large commercial concerns, are entirely rational,” he said.  “They will still, I am sure, in some situations want to ‘take their chances’, motivated probably by other less measurable factors including human judgment and bare human emotion aroused by the dispute itself.”

 “It is refreshing to see the head of the High Court so open to modernisation of the judicial process,” said James Burgoyne, Director – Claims & Technical, Brunel Professions. “Faster resolution of disputes is good for all parties and will reduce the cost of settling claims, including those involving professional negligence.”

Sir Geoffrey’s speech has been published on the Judiciary website and reported in Law Society Gazette.

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