The Law – What’s Next? The Future for the Law in the Age of AI

Law Conference at Northeastern University London
Wednesday, March 13, 2024
Join in person or via Zoom

Devon House, St Katharine Dock, London E1W 1LP
11 AM – 2 PM EDT/3 – 6 PM GMT

Conference Organiser:
Ursula Smartt, Associate Professor of Law, Northeastern University London

For further information email:

Introduction and Welcome: Global Legal Education
3.00 – 3.15 PM GMT | 11:00 - 11:15 AM EDT
Globalisation is impacting legal education across the world. The ways in which people learn and work within the legal profession are changing; hence, it is important that universal standards for international legal education be developed to ensure that all lawyers receive the right training throughout their careers.
James Hackney, Dean, Northeastern University School of Law
Ursula Smartt, Associate Professor of Law, Northeastern University London

Session 1: Data, Ethics, and Trust  

3:15 – 4:30 PM GMT | 11:15 AM - 12:30 PM EDT

What key trends will shape the world in this coming decade? How will this impact and change the legal profession? How do we determine the priorities for the legal industry for the future? Take inspiration from real-world success stories and actionable advice shared by our panel of legal experts and law alumni entrepreneurs.

Dr Balgiisa Ahmed, Northeastern University London


Shona Coffer, Partner, Mishcon de Reya
AI and Junior Lawyers — Opportunities and Threats

Abstract: Step into the future with us as we debunk the myth of AI as a threat to junior lawyers. Yes, ChatGPT is here, and it’s changing the game, but not in the way you might think. This isn’t about machines taking over jobs, it’s about freeing up human minds to tackle the truly complex and intriguing legal challenges. Imagine a world where you’re not buried in paperwork, scanning through dozens of leases for problematic clauses. Instead, you’re flexing your intellectual muscles, grappling with the kind of knotty legal problems that drew you to law in the first place. That’s the world ChatGPT is helping to create. In this session, we’ll delve into the real-world opportunities ChatGPT brings to legal practice, drawing on practical examples from my experience at Mishcon de Reya LLP. This isn’t just a talk, it’s a call to action. Embrace the future, seize the opportunities, and let’s redefine what it means to practice law in the digital age.

Biography: Shona Coffer is a partner in the private commercial litigation team at this global magic circle law firm. She is an experienced commercial litigator, with a background in corporate disputes and civil fraud. She is skilled in pursuing and defending complex, high-value and multi-jurisdictional claims, which frequently involve alleged breaches of fiduciary duty. Her work often involves seeking or resisting injunctions. Coffer has particular expertise in corporate disputes, acting for companies and individual directors and shareholders in relation to M&A disputes (arising both pre- and post-acquisition), unfair prejudice of shareholders’ interests, breaches of directors’ duties, and breaches of shareholders’ agreements and joint venture agreements. She works closely with the corporate team advising on deal risk issues and disputes arising out of transactions. She is a member of the Fraud Lawyers Association.

Eva Bernarda Haro-Harris LLB ’22, Trainee Solicitor
Generation Z Lawyers and Their Effect On and Value For the Legal Industry

Abstract: At the start of pursuing our legal careers, many of us (with myself included) tended to focus on “Big Law” and how we can fit in within a traditional legal career. However, by only focusing on how to mould ourselves into what we think a magic circle law firm wants, we are neglecting the benefits of being a part of our generation.  A popular myth in today’s world is that Gen Z is lazy; I believe a big part of this stems from how our priorities in the workplace are different than the generations before us: work-life balance, mental health, and also our values around diversity, equity, and inclusion. It will be argued, instead of focusing on moulding ourselves to fit into long held standards of the legal industry, we as Gen-Z lawyers should focus on what makes us different. The legal industry needs change, which includes AI. Lawyers need to be less hesitant toward technological advances, we need to focus more on how we can make ESG goals work in a commercial setting for our clients, and ultimately we need to redefine what mainstream legal departments and disputes are about. My talk will focus on the value of Gen Z lawyers in the legal workplace, our effect on the legal industry, and how to succeed at starting a legal career by highlighting what makes us different.

Biography: Eva Bernarda Haro-Harris graduated in 2022 with an LLB in politics and international relations from Northeastern University London. Haro-Harris describes herself as “an ambitious, self-starter, self-funded individual who has been educated across two continents in two languages, namely English and Spanish.” During her time studying law, which included the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown in 2020-2021, she took advantage of every opportunity that came her way, both virtually and whilst living in London during often completely deserted streets. She volunteered as a translator in English and Spanish, worked as a paralegal in the magistrates’ department for MTC Solicitors in London, gave legal language Spanish classes to the Sovereign Practice team at Dentons, and interned at UBS global law firm in its legal team and investment banking COO department. She is now a trainee solicitor, seconded to the Kraft Heinz Company, where she is completing her first seat in commercial law, being seconded to different organisations for each seat, a mix of in-house and private practice throughout her period of training.

Gill Phillips, Director of Editorial Legal Services, The Guardian
Reminiscences of a Career in the Law: From the City to The Guardian

Abstract: For most of her career, Gill worked as an in-house editorial content lawyer for some of the UK's bigger print and broadcast media, but she started off in the city. Gill will talk about her career path from city law firm to the Guardian and some of the difficult personal decisions she encountered on the way. She’ll give some insight into why she likes working as an in-house lawyer and what she sees as its benefits for her, as well as making some more general observations about work-life balance and career paths.  

Biography: A graduate of the University of Cambridge, Gill Phillips drifted into law from history. As in-house lawyer and director of editorial legal services for Guardian News & Media Limited (GNM), she has been advising journalists and editors on a range of content-related matters, including defamation, privacy, contempt of court, and reporting restrictions. She was involved in the Trafigura super injunction case, and has advised GNM publications on Wikileaks, Edward Snowden, and various big data leak stories such as the Panama and Paradise Papers. She also sits as a part-time Employment Tribunal Judge and co-authors the University of Law Employment Law handbook. Phillips is a member of the Centre for Investigative Journalism Board of Trustees. Recently, she was appointed by the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) and Oxford University Press as the new co-author, together with Sian Harrison, of the 27th edition of McNae’s Essential Law for Journalists. McNae’s is regarded as an invaluable tool for everyone who wants to be taken seriously as a journalist, editor or journalism trainer.

4:30 – 4:45 PM GMT | 12:30 - 12:45 AM EDT

Session 2: The Future of the Bar: Changes in Client Expectations
4:45  – 5:25 PM GMT | 12:45 - 1:25 PM EDT

While legal technology is poised to transform the legal profession, it is essential to remember that it is a tool, not a replacement for human expertise. Here are some reasons why lawyers will remain indispensable.

Ursula Smartt, Associate Professor of Law, Northeastern University London

James St. Ville KC CEng MIET, Intellectual Property Barrister, 8 New Square Intellectual Property
Forging a Path Through the Law: LEDs, Bolts, Music, and AI

Abstract: How does a shy boy of St. Lucian and West Sussex heritage end up an engineer building a world-leading optical switching systems in Berlin and as a barrister who persuaded the Court of Appeal that the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has got it wrong, and had his pleading about a grime artist analysed in The Sun? St. Ville’s talk centres on the turning points, challenges, and opportunities that need to be grasped to forge a fun and rewarding career as a lawyer — at the bar, in an ivory tower, or in industry. It will touch upon new technologies, disputes about AI, and new forms of art.

Biography: James St. Ville was called to the bar of England and Wales at Gray’s Inn in 1995 and the bar of Northern Ireland in 2014. He specialises in intellectual property law, including patents, confidential information, design rights, copyright, database rights, trademarks, passing off, and complex information technology. He is a chartered engineer with substantial experience of commercial electronics, optical communications, and engineering research. As a National Engineering Scholar, he was awarded a 1st in Electrical and Information Sciences and Engineering at Cambridge University and at GEC Marconi Research, became a chartered engineer and leader of the Optical Communications Networks Team. His practice has ranged across the High Court, Patents Court, Technology and Construction Court, Court of Appeal, Intellectual Property Enterprise Court, the UK Intellectual Property Office, EU General Court, European Patent Office, and the High Court in Northern Ireland. Chambers UK and Legal 500 describe him as “well regarded for his attention to detail and commerciality” and “extremely intelligent, thoughtful, thorough, careful, very good on his feet, and a real pleasure to work with.”

Most recently, in ICE Trade Mark [2024] FSR 3, he persuaded the Court of Appeal to exercise its power to depart from the case law of the European Court of Justice for the first time. Since 2019 he has been involved in the work of IP Inclusive, the umbrella organisation for the IP professions’ inclusivity communities, including IP Ability, Women in IP, IP & ME, IP Out and IP Futures. His private passions include playing jazz flute, fringe theatre, and new music. He has been a board member of Clod Ensemble theatre and dance company since 2009 and, since 2018, chair of the trustees of the Alfred Fagon Award, the UK’s leading award for Black playwrights of Caribbean and African descent, which is awarded every year at the National Theatre.

His Honour Jeff Blackett, Retired Judge; Former Advocate General of the Armed Forces
Are Judges Really the Enemies of the People?

Abstract: On Friday 4 November 2016, the Daily Mail made an unprecedented attack on three of our country’s most senior judges. The High Court ruled in the famous Miller case that the UK government could not use the Royal Prerogative to trigger Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union, and that they needed the consent of Parliament before starting the process to leave the European Union. Under the photographs of three senior judges on the front page of the Daily Mail was written: “Enemies of the People.” “Fury over out of touch judges who defied 17.4 million Brexit voters could trigger constitutional crisis.” Judges swear an oath to apply the law without fear or favour and they are a cornerstone of a modern liberal democracy. Should they be vilified for making unpopular decisions or praised for upholding the rule of law? His Honour Jeff Blackett will examine cases where judges have been criticised. He will highlight the sometimes perceived conflict between the freedom of the press and independence of the judiciary and discuss the role of lawyers in challenging the increasing intolerance in modern society.

His Honour Jeff Blackett joined the Royal Navy as a university cadet in September 1973, graduating in law from University College London in 1976. He was selected for barrister training and was called to the bar at Gray’s Inn in 1983. While still serving in the Royal Navy, he sat as an acting metropolitan stipendiary magistrate from 1995 to 2000 and a recorder from 2000 to 2004. He also sat as a uniformed judge advocate in Royal Navy courts-martial. He was the last chief naval judge advocate and first director of naval legal services. After a sabbatical at St Anthony’s College Oxford where he obtained a master of studies, he was promoted to commodore in 2000 and retired prematurely in 2004. In that year, he was appointed as a circuit judge and judge advocate general of the Armed Forces. He became a senior circuit judge in 2006 and was appointed honorary professor at Nottingham University in 2013. He sat as a deputy high court judge in the Administrative Court. He retired from all judicial office in 2020. Among the cases over which he presided was that of “Marine A,” who was found guilty of murder of an Afghan insurgent in 2011 in Helman Province and sentenced to life imprisonment. The Court Martial Appeal Court subsequently quashed the conviction for murder and substituted a conviction for manslaughter in 2017 after new psychiatric evidence was adduced. Blackett played rugby and cricket for the Royal Navy and has been an administrator in rugby for most of his life. He was the judicial officer in three Rugby World Cups, a member of the RFU Council from 2000 to 2023 and was president of the RFU from 2020–2022.

Session 3: AI and Emerging Technologies
5:25 – 6:00 PM GMT | 1:25 - 2:00 PM EDT

The legal workforce and AI development: From traditional lawyering to generation Z. What are the implications for roles across firms and legal education? What is the impact on aspiring and newly qualified lawyers and upskilling? Where does the human-machine interface lie?

Scott Wildman, Dean, Northeastern University London

Khanjana Gola LLB ’23 and Viren Thandi LLB ’23
The AI Lawyer

Abstract: New technology is not new for long: however, an oddity of AI technologies is that new tests have typically preceded the invention of the AI systems themselves. The two most famous examples of these tests, perhaps, are Alan Turing’s “Turing Test,” created in 1950, and John Searle’s “Chinese Room Argument,” created in 1980. The treatment of AI, therefore, has always been a proactive one, and looking ahead ought to not be a part of the past. In light of this, part one of the talk will discuss how AI systems, in particular the OpenAI-backed Harvey AI, could potentially create an “AI lawyer” in the future. The proposition shall not be that such an AI lawyer is going to be the replacement of lawyers: instead, this AI lawyer could be regarded as an ameliorative tool for lawyers, and a guide along the lawyer’s road rather than the replacement of the litigative pavement. Part two of the presentation shall then discuss “DIY” legal AI technology, such as legal template document generator Genie AI, and how document management systems might lead to more businesses trying to draft legal documents in-house before consulting a lawyer. As a concluding point to part two, there shall also be a discussion of the potential legal challenges presented by DIY “text-to-video” AI generators, such as Meta’s Make-A-Video AI generator, and the potential challenges these “DIY AI systems could create for the future of litigation in relation to falsified evidence, and misinformation more broadly.

Khanjana Gola LLB ’23

Biography: Originally from Wigan, Khanjana Gola has been team leader for the family business, the One Stop Supermarket in Leigh, Greater Manchester, during most of her studies since 2016. Her managerial roles have included running the store single-handedly during peak times, overseeing employees, sales promotions, payroll and security practices, stock taking and being in charge of the post office counter, handling large amounts of money, and running monthly staff training sessions. Since graduating in September 2023, she has been studying the Legal Practice Course (LPC LLM) at BPP University in Manchester and is due to finish in 2024.

Viren Thandi LLB ’23
Biography: During his first year at Northeastern University London, which was marked by the Covid pandemic lockdown in 2020, Thandi, originally from Coventry, volunteered virtually as a tutor and head coach for the social mobility charity, CoachBright UK. Thandi’s mission has been to support young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to become confident, independent and resilient so they can lead the lives they want. He continued on the same mission whilst at NU London as student ambassador, assisting with the outreach events organised by IntoUniversity UK, and the judicial conference organised by Professor Ursula Smartt in November 2022. He now works as a client due diligence analyst at Irwin Mitchell Solicitors. He carries out risk and background client checks, ensuring that the law firm complies with anti-money laundering legislation, such as the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 and the Money Laundering Regulations 2017.

Mark Stephens, CBE Cultural Property Lawyer, Solicitor, Partner, Howard Kennedy LLP
Lord Elgin’s Plunder of the Parthenon Marbles – A Crime: You Decide? Repatriation: You Decide?

Abstract: Greece has for a long time fought for the return of the Parthenon Marbles, taken to London by Lord Elgin, and now residing in the British Museum. This is a story of that legal battle and the lesser-known facts and legal ramifications for other museums around the world concerning the return of ancient artefacts “purloined” during times of conflict, occupation, or Colonial control. Should the Marbles return to Athens? You decide ....

Biography: Mark Stephens was born in Old Windsor. His father was an artist. He studied drama at the Cambridge Manor Academy for Dramatic Arts, before going on to study law in London. He went on to study EU Law at the Vrije Universiteit in Brussels, before being admitted as a solicitor of the Supreme Court in England and Wales in July. In 1983, with Roslyn Innocent, he established Stephens Innocent, a law firm specialising in visual arts and intellectual property. He founded the Design Artists Copyright Society, a mutual royalty collection society for artists, currently distributing about £20 million annually to its approximately 80,000 artist members. Stephens has undertaken some of the highest-profile media cases, specialising in international, appellate, and complex litigation cases. Today, he is also a Privy Council agent and has a Supreme Court practice. His expertise lies in the law of defamation, privacy, media, art, and cultural property, data protection, and freedom of information and is well known for taking spoliation claims for the return of looted and stolen cultural property.


6:00 PM GMT | 2:00 PM EDT
Closing Comments
Scott Wildman, Dean, Northeastern University London


Mar 13, 2024

11:00 am to 2:00 pm