There’s been much talk about technology imitating the work of lawyers, making some lawyers redundant. But we often neglect discussing how technology will shape the content of our laws.
Laws often reflect the times that they are made in. For example, I recently read a case where it was said in 1958 (quoting a decision from 1900) that “It has long been the law that if a wife is separated from her husband without his consent, and while separate is guilty of adultery, the adulterer is liable to the husband… [for the] injury to the husband by the defilement of his wife, the invasion of his exclusive right to marital intercourse, and the consequences resulting therefrom.”
But just as it would be absurd to apply this law today, it would be absurd to ignore the advances in technology. Technology has radically changed human behaviour and with it the substance of our laws. We are just starting to see the beginning of these changes.
For example, under the Arthur Wishart Act (legislation that protects franchisees), Ontario is considering allowing the use of email. Currently, franchisors can only give key documents to potential franchisees through registered mail or in person. The government is considering enabling franchisors to provide those documents through email.
I predict that changes like these are just the beginning and will go well beyond approving the use of email. We will see legislation on drones, legislation on 3D printing, legislation on artificial intelligence, and so on. We will see the content of our civil procedure change. Rules on serving documents will change. And even more excitedly, the processes for determining routine motions, like motions for answers to undertakings, third party productions, extending time for service will become redundant as technology will shift the role of the traditional master or judge.