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Lancashire Law School’s Law & Emerging Technologies Conference

The inspiration for Lancashire Law School’s Law & Emerging Technologies conference on 25th June 2018 came from the School’s desire to stay ahead of the curve on what is proving to be an exciting time for Law & Emerging Technology. From advancements in AI to worldwide data breaches, it certainly feels like we are on the cusp of a technological revolution. We were keen within our remit to explore the impact of emerging technologies on the law from the perspective of legal academics and practitioners.

The conference was organised by Viv Ivins, Simon Price, Omar Mashjari & myself. Without the help of colleagues, Maxwell Boardman & Mark Grundy the conference would not have run as smoothly as it did.

We got off to a great start with an address by Jane Anthony, Executive Dean of Culture & Creative Industries at UCLAN.

Our first speaker Darren Ansell, Space & Aerospace Engineering Lead at UClan gave great insight into the Flying High City Challenge proving that UClan is at the heart of drone technology in the UK. The Flying High project will place cities & people at the center of designing how drone technology could operate in complex city environments to address local needs. The Challenge is being run by Nesta in partnership with Innovate UK & the Department for Transport & the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy. Darren described one project where his team had trained the Cambodian Army to use drones to pinpoint unexploded landmines surrounding schools in Cambodia.

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Justine Mitchell, Lecturer in Law at UClan followed with her mind-blowing ‘Mind Uploading in the context of Copyright & Cryogenics.’  A fascinating topic which elicited many questions and follow on discussions.

We were then treated to a presentation by our first year Mlaw student Terri Whitlowe. Terri had used her experience of working in the motorsport industry and had volunteered to work on a pro bono basis for the European Advanced Drone Academy. Terri had used her studies of contract law in real life practice alongside Richard Kennedy & Steve Kasch at the Academy. Her motivation, commitment, and energy was impressive and an absolute asset to Terri. A real example of what you can achieve if you set your mind to it.

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I then led the next session, with an introduction to my legally themed escape room ‘Legally Bound’. I was keen to capture the students’ imagination and create an environment where they could test their skills, learn & ultimately have a lot of fun. I took five volunteers from the audience (although due to the interest we had a few more delegates join us) and promptly led them to the Law School’s Moot Court room.

The students were presented with a brief, their client stood charged with racially profiling in contravention of the GDPR 2018 and her only hope was to present evidence that her subjects had consented. The evidence was in the form of a memory stick hidden within the room. The participants were handcuffed to each other initially, having to follow a series of clues to reveal codes to unlock safes & padlocked boxes. We used technology in the form of VR Oculus googles to give the students a virtual experience. Embedded within the virtual world were even more clues. In true escape room format, the students failed to escape before the time was up but not before they expressed their enjoyment of a novel learning concept. We are looking to roll out the escape room to our Year 1 Law students in November, so it proved an invaluable test of how interactive technology can enhance the learning experience.

The afternoon sessions were devoted to technology in practice. We were honoured to have esteemed practitioners from DWF Ventures & Riverview Law with us.

John Patterson (DWF Ventures) a pioneer in the business of law with particular interest in service design and innovation explained the importance of working with clients in a rapidly changing legal market, developing new products and services that combine specialist legal expertise with emerging technology, resourcing models and processes. When questioned by student delegates what qualities would serve the next generation of lawyers well, John responded that in the rapidly changed legal field problem solvers would flourish. Lawyers who are able to adapt to the changing technologies, developing them & utilising available advancements for the clients’ best interests. John stressed that we are very much at the dawn of emerging technology within legal practice, and that the face of legal practice will change over our lifetime.

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Sonia Williamson, Head of Managed Projects and Services at Riverview Law is head of a technology-led legal business providing dedicated teams of lawyers, trainees & paralegals working as a true extension of their global customer in-house legal teams across numerous industries. Sonia impressed upon us that the success and growth of their business was due to the unique service they offered their clients. That they were ahead of the curve and due to this found global leaders opting for their input with their business processes.

The conference was brought to a close with a panel discussion led by Sonia & John. It was an inspirational day, from Drones and Cryogenics to the future of legal services and beyond. What we hope delegates will take from the day is that as a Law School we stay one step ahead. In an ever-competitive world, we owe it to our students to create an environment to thrive and develop skills, which will set our graduates in good stead for a legal future. With that in mind, preparation is already underway for our Law & Emerging Technologies Conference in February 2019. Watch this space!

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