Technology with legal education

Herian, Robert (2021). Technology with legal education. In: rua Wall, Illan; Middleton, Freya and Shah, Sahar eds. The Critical Legal Pocketbook. Oxford: Counterpress, pp. 267–272.



During this chapter I offer a brief account of technologies with legal education and present a case for the importance of studying technological effects on law. At the heart of that relationship is a tension between the latter (slowly) recognizing the unavoidability of the former in its future. The following discussion draws on aspects of my research on blockchains within Anglo-American common law jurisdictions, and my wider research on law, data, and technologies. Distributed ledger technologies (DLTs), of which blockchains are a species, are a form of ICT infrastructure used across commercial and civic sectors. The Bank of England explains the operation of DLTs as ‘a database architecture which enables the keeping and sharing of records in a distributed and decentralized way, while ensuring its integrity through the use of consensus-based validation protocols and cryptographic signatures.’ In reality, the bulk of present DLT use-cases involve financial services. These ‘ledgers’ are cryptographically secure databases for storing and recording novel forms of digital property (e.g. tokenized securities), relying on quasi-legal forms, chiefly ‘smart contracts’, to transact across networks without prejudice. Here I am interested in two aspects of DLTs. First, how DLTs and their stakeholders make use of and exert control over particular legal forms and vernacular (i.e. property, contracts, etc.). Second, how legal education, in providing the underpinnings for legal practice and helping to shape legal ideas, confronts and deals with technological phenomena such as DLTs to ensure the integrity of tomorrow’s lawyers and legal thinkers.

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