find the latest legal job
Senior Associate - Litigation & Dispute Resolution
Category: Litigation and Dispute Resolution | Location: Melbourne CBD & Inner Suburbs Melbourne VIC
· Come work for a firm ranked in Lawyers Weekly Top 25 Attraction Firms
View details
Associate - Workplace Relations & Safety
Category: Industrial Relations and Employment Law | Location: Brisbane CBD & Inner Suburbs Brisbane QLD
· Employer of choice · Strong team culture
View details
Freelance Lawyers
Category: Banking and Finance Law | Location: All Perth WA
· Freelance opportunities through Vario from Pinsent Masons
View details
Freelance Lawyers
Category: Other | Location: All Adelaide SA
· • Qualified lawyer with a strong academic background
View details
Freelance Lawyers
Category: Other | Location: All Melbourne VIC
· • Qualified lawyer with a strong academic background
View details
Technology brings justice to ‘missing majority’

Technology brings justice to ‘missing majority’

Tom Bathurst

As spiralling costs block people from pursuing litigation, technology could bring down expenses and decrease reliance on the courts, the Chief Justice of New South Wales says.

Speaking at the National Access to Justice and Pro Bono Conference, NSW Supreme Court Chief Justice Tom Bathurst (pictured) said more than seven million Australians are facing legal problems without legal assistance.

“I do not think these statistics reveal a missing minority or a missing middle,” Justice Bathurst said. “What they come dangerously close to is a missing majority.”

He suggested the solution could lie in courts embracing innovative online programs.

“Technology undoubtedly should play a role in linking people to the judicial and legal system and a mention of it could also allow them to operate independently of it,” he said.

Courts have an obligation to streamline their procedures and facilitate access at the lowest costs, with technology a key strategy, Justice Bathurst suggested.

The NSW Supreme Court has recently introduced an expanded online registry, a free court app and electronic distribution of subpoenaed material.

Next year, the court intends to launch an electronic courtroom system that will allow parties to appear 'virtually' for directions hearings or minor civil cases.

In addition, Justice Bathurst predicted technology may minimise the need for people to use the court system at all.

“It might be heretical for someone like me to suggest to take the step proposed… What if simultaneously the very reliance on the legal system and courts themselves were to decrease?” he asked.

“Consideration should be given to how litigants can best be given information to discern if they require legal services, the most appropriate type of services they require and the costs involved in the various alternatives available to them.”

As an example, he pointed to a US system allowing builders to gain online approval for draft plans, bypassing the courts and local councils.

“At the very least, an informed consumer group has the potential to increase efficiency in how such services are provided.”

However, he warned technology has some drawbacks, noting the “litigant without access to the internet will be akin to the illiterate litigant of former generations”.

He also suggested technology would only provide a solution if properly supported by funding.

Speaking at the same conference, Productivity Commissioner Warren Mundy took a different approach, warning “there’s just not enough money”.

“Senior statutory office holders such as myself can't afford to bring litigation unless it's absolutely dire and desperate, so how is someone with average weekly earnings, because they can't get assistance for a civil matter, going to cope? The problem is money.”

He suggested funding cuts for legal aid were due to a lack of political constituency to rally around the cause: “Somebody needs to provide community leadership if they want to solve the funding problem.”

NSW Legal Aid CEO Billl Grant also called for increased funding support, while barrister Gabrielle Bashir spoke of the vital role of legal aid services for the community.

Meanwhile, Malaysian Bar Association immediate past president Chris Leong shared the Malaysian experience with legal aid, which has rapidly expanded since its inception in 1982.

Like this story? Read more:

QLS condemns actions of disgraced lawyer as ‘stain on the profession’

NSW proposes big justice reforms to target risk of reoffending

The legal budget breakdown 2017

Technology brings justice to ‘missing majority’
lawyersweekly logo
Promoted content
Recommended by Spike Native Network
more from lawyers weekly
Scales of Justice, ALA, right-to-die law
06:04
‘Right-to-die’ laws would be a relief for terminally ill: ALA
The passage of an assisted dying bill through the lower house of Victorian Parliament has been haile...
Diversity
06:00
Diversity top of agenda for future WA Law Society president
The advancement of diversity in the Western Australian legal profession will be one of the key items...
Jetski
Oct 23 2017
How to fail well
The legal profession is due for an attitude adjustment when it comes to perceived failures, accordin...
APPOINTMENTS
Allens managing partner Richard Spurio, image courtesy Allens' website
Jun 21 2017
Promo season at Allens
A group of lawyers at Allens have received promotions across its PNG and Australian offices. ...
May 11 2017
Partner exits for in-house role
A Victorian lawyer has left the partnership of a national firm to start a new gig with state governm...
Esteban Gomez
May 11 2017
National firm recruits ‘major asset’
A national law firm has announced it has appointed a new corporate partner who brings over 15 years'...
opinion
Nicole Rich
May 16 2017
Access to justice for young transgender Australians
Reform is looming for the process that young transgender Australians and their families must current...
Geoff Roberson
May 11 2017
The lighter side of the law: when law and comedy collide
On the face of it, there doesn’t seem to be much that is amusing about the law, writes Geoff Rober...
Help
May 10 2017
Advocate’s immunity – without fear or without favour but not both
On 29 March 2017, the High Court handed down its decision in David Kendirjian v Eugene Lepore & ...