Susskind calls for UK body to meet AI’s legal challenges

Influential academic says best legal and technology minds are needed as AI race accelerates

Professor Richard Susskind has called for lawyers and businesses to invest in a new national institute for legal innovation to meet the challenges over the use of artificial intelligence, as other jurisdictions seek to do likewise. 

Susskind, a director of LegalUK, which aims to promote English common law as the governing law of choice for international business, will deliver an address on the subject this evening at an event at the Old Bailey, chaired by One Essex Court’s Dame Liz Gloster.

He said: “Yesterday’s formula is not sustainable. We cannot rely on tradition to help us meet the challenges the UK justice and legal systems face. Technology is driving forward change at a rapid rate, and to maintain our leadership, we need to innovate and embrace technology as a force for good.”

Susskind will argue the UK’s legal and common law heritage cannot tackle AI alone and the UK needs to bring together the best legal and technology minds to harness its full power and potential as an opportunity for the economy and the profession while dealing with its threats. 

English common law is a market leader in addressing the problems of globalised financial markets, particularly in fintech, crypto, digital ledger technology, NFT and AI.

The Law Commission recently issued a report on digital assets, which proposed that such technologies should fall outside traditional categories of personal property under English law in a new class of “digital objects”.

The report lays down a legal framework for the UK government’s ambitions to make the UK a global centre for technological innovation and development, including AI.

Susskind notes the rise of China, which has plans to roll out an AI system to support that country’s civil law by 2025, and which already possesses access to a compliant common law jurisdiction in Hong Kong, and the EU’s approach with the European Commission aiming to lead the way on AI regulation, but from an EU law perspective.

Characterising the UK’s attempts to keep pace with technological advances as “piecemeal and uncoordinated”, Susskind said there was currently no single body to develop the law and legal services nationally. 

“We are calling for the establishment of a new national institute for legal innovation to systematically bring together the best legal minds and ensure we are ahead of the game and position ourselves as global leaders. Until now, the loudest voices have been those who see AI and technology as a problem rather than the clear opportunity it is. All the while, the pace of technological change is accelerating. 

“The Institute will become a focal point in the UK for new thinking on how we improve access to justice, preserve our global position and respond to the rapid development of technology.”

Susskind added that there was a clear opportunity for the UK to show how its courts should take advantage of technological change – for example, by helping self-represented litigants to understand and enforce their entitlements.

It is a theme which has also been expounded by the Master of the Rolls, Sir Geoffrey Vos, although judges who deal most often with litigants in person are sceptical about such plans.   

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