As a Lord Justice of Appeal and Senior President of Tribunals, the opportunity to hear Lord Justice Ryder speak was one that I did not want to miss. Sir Ryder’s speech focused on the modernisation of the judiciary and the challenges facing the profession- something all students of the law should constantly be considering. As I have a keen interest in the evolution of the legal profession, I was particularly interested in this aspect of his lecture. Also, due to my aspiration to enter the profession, I believe it is important to consider where the profession has gone and where it is going.
One of the areas I found most compelling from the lecture was Sir Ryder’s influence on the modernisation of law through statute. Having worked as a High Court Judge in the Family Division, many of his recommendations for modernising family justice were implanted in the Children and Families Act 2014. I was particularly interested in this as I was pleased to hear his expertise was utilised by the legislature in the drafting of the Act. In relation to his work in the Family Division, his thoughts on his personal experience of deciding incredibly tense family law issues was compelling, as he explained the reality of law in action. Having to settle a dispute between parents and doctors over the life of a child is an unfortunate reality that is often overlooked as an aspect of such a role.
One of the most surprising aspects of the lecture revolved around the impact of technology on the profession. The law is often seen as- and is in many respects- an archaic profession full of tradition. Yet the development of modern technology must be embraced by the profession or else justice cannot truly be done and seen to be done. In the question and answer session, Lord Justice Ryder suggested that he would not be opposed to the use of technology in court rooms to ensure the protection of witness’s identities. I found this particularly captivating in light of his discussion on unconscious bias and whether a computer programme could eliminate this trait or would replicate the programmer’s beliefs.
Having recently become the Senior President of Tribunals in 2015, I was curious about how he felt his many roles connected within the profession. At the end of his lecture I was pleased to ask him about the impact he thinks alternative dispute resolution (ADR) has had and will have on the traditional adversarial litigation model used. Lord Justice Ryder took the chance to comment on the financial reasoning behind such methods, as well as the flexibility and efficiency of ADR. He also considered the impact of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) in practice, (a point I found particularly noteworthy due to studying the Lawyer’s and Society module) and the subsequent rise of litigants in person. How a system that is used to well-trained advocates has had to adapt to lay people self-representing is quite remarkable, and Sir Ryder’s comments hinted that he believes the challenges will continue and that many large changes to the profession will be felt over the next few years.
The talk raised more questions than answers about the future of the legal profession, and as such it was a very successful event. The questions and problems raised are ones that the next generation of the profession must consider and learn from in order to ensure that justice is achieved. Most importantly, this must be done so that the general public can be confident in the administration of justice.