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Legal practice needs to take advantage of extraordinary technology opportunities

12 October 2017
A blog by Carl Wilshire Bethel, Attorney General of The Bahamas

Law is still very much seen as a world of books, papers, and procedures, set in its own well established ways and untouched by modern technologies. In fact, this image could not be further from the truth. Technology has changed the world we live in, and that is true for law as well.

Law ministers and attorneys-general from across the Commonwealth will soon be gathering in Nassau, The Bahamas, for their triennial meeting. As a host, we have chosen the theme “Strengthening the rule of law through technology” to discuss the impacts that new technologies have had on law, but also the opportunities they have created. As many countries, including Commonwealth countries, are still grieving for lives lost through terrorist attacks, law ministers will discuss the impact of information technologies on the recruitment of terrorists, and the foreign fighters’ phenomenon. Technology has created new forms of criminal activity, and cybercrime is an issue that law ministers cannot ignore.

However, no one can deny that technology has its advantages and few of us would return to a time without smartphones and computers. Similarly, technology has created extraordinary opportunities in the legal field. Law Ministers will discuss how technology can improve access to legal identity for all, thereby contributing to fulfilling one of the Sustainable Development Goals. Technology can also revolutionize our courtrooms, reducing backlogs and increasing access to judgments, and overall contributing to a greater access to justice for all.

The Commonwealth is all about interaction and cooperation between its member states. Again, technology helps facilitate this collaboration, and the Commonwealth has recently launched some new exciting tools which will be presented to the Law Ministers Meeting. The Commonwealth’s new Office for Criminal and Justice Reform will be a fantastic source of online information and collaboration for Commonwealth member countries. A new app, which is forthcoming and will be demonstrated at the meeting, will assist prosecution offices by ensuring secure, reliable communications in exchanging information across borders.

As Attorney-General and Minister of Legal Affairs, I am faced every day with the challenge of maintaining a safe, equal and inclusive society, where the rights of all citizens are respected. Rule of law is essential for a country to achieve its full potential and it is our responsibility as law ministers to make it thrive. I will be pleased to meet colleagues from across the Commonwealth to debate, learn and share best practices, with the ultimate goal of improving our citizens’ lives by upholding the rule of law.

As a citizen of a Caribbean island, it gives me immense pleasure to welcome delegates to the beautiful Bahamas. I truly hope that participants will take the time to appreciate our islands’ exceptional climate and scenery. But as we take in all this beauty, we should not forget our responsibility to protect it. Recent hurricanes Irma and Maria have shown only too clearly how vulnerable we are to the threat of climate change. Law ministers will be discussing the importance of adequate legal frameworks to appropriately respond to natural disasters. 

In conclusion, as we are getting ready for four days of lively discussions and fruitful exchanges, the aim of the Commonwealth Law Ministers Meeting, and of the Commonwealth as a family, is perhaps best summarised by the motto of The Bahamas ‘Forward, Upward, Onward, Together’. I look forward to seeing my fellow law ministers and attorneys-general in Nassau.

Find more information about the Commonwealth Law Ministers Meeting here.