We tend to see a lot of future-gazing around the changing role of the law firm, but relatively little on the future of the court system itself – the fundamental common law institution that for hundreds of years has served as a bedrock of legal process and justice across the globe.

So, we set ourselves a challenge: what will the courts look like in 20 years’ time? The white paper The Future of the Courts is our attempt at an answer.

The Legal UKI business of Thomson Reuters sought insights from common law jurisdictions in the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and elsewhere, working closely with colleagues across the business to understand the trends, opportunities, and challenges surrounding the modernization of the court system. .

Trends

Technological innovations offer a solution to many of the problems besetting creaking institutions funded from a shrinking public purse; but those same innovations challenge courts to fundamentally reimagine the way they serve their communities.

Some of the topics the paper covers include:

  • How far can virtual court proceedings in cyberspace remedy the chronic problems of logistics and delays that push up court costs?
  • What is the potential for Online Dispute Resolution-type technologies or automated proceedings to take the place of traditional court hearings?
  • Could a more efficient, digitized court service re-designed for an online space improve access to justice for the ordinary citizen?
  • And what is the potential for streams of digitized court information to drive new data-driven products and services for governments, litigators and businesses worldwide?

While traditional, physical processes remain the norm, there are courts in the world where this revolution is already taking place. State courts in the US are experimenting with unprecedented data integration with justice partners. The UK’s Civil Justice Council report, led by Richard Susskind, has very recently called on the courts to move some civil cases online.

Given the central role the courts play in our societies, this revolution is going to have far-reaching consequences not just for our court and law firm clients in Legal, but for all the businesses and institutions that make up the Thomson Reuters client base. Please read it. And please tell us what you think.