Richard Susskind champions ‘entirely new’ lawmaking process, then tells Lords ‘I’m not as radical as you might think’

Avatar photo

By Katie King on

The legislature is not broken but could be a lot better


Richard Susskind has told the House of Lords he advocates an “entirely new” legislative process that embraces technology.

Giving evidence this morning to the Constitution Committee, futurologist Susskind told his captivated audience to “take a step back” and consider doing things differently — but not too differently.

Academic, author and speaker Susskind made clear he didn’t promote giving lawmaking powers to robots, and quipped “I’m not as radical as you might think”. He said:

I’m absolutely not here today to say you take the discretion, the judgement, the creativity and the constitutional responsibility and the legislative responsibility away from human beings and give it to machines.

Richard Susskind giving evidence today as pal Lord Pannick QC looks on
Richard Susskind giving evidence today as pal Lord Pannick QC looks on

Susskind — who thinks law schools should change their teaching strategies to reflect technological developments — continued:

I’m saying we can probably adopt a rather different view of how it is we make the law available and how we change and update it.

He specifically advocated a “legislative information system”. This organisation-wide integrated workflow system would acknowledge the huge amounts of documents lawmakers contend with and “overcome inefficiencies of paper-based systems”. Later on in his evidence giving, Susskind discussed the introduction of rules that “automatically update themselves” when events happen.

University of Glasgow graduate Susskind did, however, note that there are a number of barriers to adopting such a tech-heavy system.

Unless you have strong leadership, he argued, automation and innovation “never happen”. He also noted that lawyers and legislatures — given their deference to precedent — tend to be more conservative than their commercial counterparts and therefore more resistant to change. Though the fear of the unknown is in some ways legitimate, the least likely outcome in our world is that nothing is going to change, so legislatures need to be pro-active in embracing this change.

You can listen to Susskind’s evidence in full here.

For all the latest news, features, events and jobs, sign up to Legal Cheek’s weekly newsletter here.