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Technology, AI and hacking predicted at the Bar in 2024

Technology advancements, both good and bad, were a big theme at the end of 2023, and they will likely continue to change the way barristers work over the next 12 months. Here, Lawyers Weekly takes a look at what that new way of working may look like in 2024.

user iconNaomi Neilson 29 January 2024 Big Law
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Advancements in technology have both a positive and negative effect on the profession, and while some of it may mean lightening the workload for barristers or making it easier to assist their clients, a big part of it could force practitioners into new, creative ways of working.

Speaking to Lawyers Weekly about what the next 12 months may look like in light of the events of last year, Victorian Bar president Georgina Schoff said cyber security will be a “big issue”.

Less than a week into the new year, Court Services Victoria (CSV) announced it was attacked by hackers over a seven-week period between 1 November and 23 December 2023, which led to those behind the attack securing “unauthorised access” to its systems.


The hackers had accessed video recordings, audio recordings and transcription services from the Supreme Court, County Court, practice court, Coroners Court, the Court of Appeal’s criminal division, regional courts, and one hearing in the Children’s Court.

Then, last week, CSV disclosed the attack was much bigger than originally thought and could span back to data from 2016.

“The investigation remains ongoing, but CSV can confirm the recordings of some hearings in the Supreme Court, County Court and Coroners Court on the audio-visual system were prior to 1 November 2023,” CSV updated in a statement.

“At this stage, there is no change to the date ranges for the Magistrates and Children’s Court and VCAT remains unaffected.”

“Cyber security will continue to be a big issue, with matters of data retention and cyber security coming under scrutiny for many lawyers,” Ms Schoff said, adding it may also affect barristers “who may have personal information sitting in old files that will need to be dealt with in accordance with the new protocols”.

Cyber security concerns have already forced courts to consider new ways of working, with barristers and judges alike proposing new ways to share or limit the information that is passed around.

In a case management hearing for a class action against an employment agency, Federal Court Justice Bernard Murphy told counsel to “find another way” to secure applicants after it became clear the firm wanted bank details and tax file numbers.

“I couldn’t think of a better way to assist a scammer,” he said.

In an application concerning the transfer of a report into the cyber attack that hit Optus in 2022, Justice Jonathan Beach of the Federal Court heard an argument about the methods of transferring sensitive and unredacted information between the parties.

Kate Richardson, counsel for Optus, said it would need the applicants to take steps to confirm its level of security.

“Other law firms have been hacked, so it is a significant and real issue,” Ms Richardson said at the time.

Artificial intelligence (AI) will also be centre stage this year, and with the advancements likely to take over at least part of the profession, Ms Schoff said barristers will need to know how to understand it.

“It has gone from an interesting hypothetical to something that is starting to be used actively in the practice of lawyers, and we have not yet understood what that will mean in the shape of the profession,” Ms Schoff explained.

In a president’s message mid-last year, NSW Bar’s former president, Gabrielle Bashir, announced an AI guideline had been published to assist barristers with their work in and outside the courtroom.

Ms Bashir said it was important that “barristers understand their duties” in the face of these advancements, such as ChatGPT.

Speaking to Lawyers Weekly for its investigation into how ChatGPT is taking over the profession, partner Matthew Ward said while it should be used cautiously, the technology could improve courtrooms, preparations and the experiences of jurors.

“The more we can utilise and integrate it into what we do as lawyers, the better our profession will be, and the more lawyers will be able to focus on other areas,” Ms Ward said.

As post-pandemic life continues, Ms Schoff predicted this new way of working would take “a more permanent shape” – but it is still up in the air and could depend on a number of different factors.

“The extent to which working from home and remote appearances continue in the way that they did in 2023 will be interesting, particularly as we see more law firms expecting their lawyers to spend more time in the office,” Ms Schoff said.

“We will watch closely the effect on barristers. COVID has shown us flexibility of online interactions but has also caused us to appreciate the benefits of life in chambers.”

Speaking to Lawyers Weekly mid-last year, barrister Angelika Yianoulatos said it is essential barristers “are capable of providing legal services both in person and remotely”.

“The barrister of the future will need to be adaptable, innovative, and client-focused to thrive in the post-pandemic and potentially recessionary environment,” she told Lawyers Weekly.