Technologies in Legal Practice - LAWS6580

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Module delivery information

This module is not currently running in 2024 to 2025.


From the introduction of writing in criminal trial processes, right through to use of AI to machine-analyse legal documents, the law has always transformed its own practice through the adoption of "non-legal" technologies. Today, blockchain and other distributed ledger technologies have made possible the creation of new kinds of legal documents—for example, “smart contracts” that are self-executing and self-enforcing. Hand-held mobile devices and instant messaging have transformed lawyer-client relations. Beyond new documents or networked communication mechanisms, however, new technologies like algorithmic machine learning are changing the way lawyers, courts and intermediaries do their work. Tomorrow's lawyers, as recent scholarship has argued, will need a new set of skills and ways of working that are fit for the coming age of human-machine hybridity. This module aims to introduce students to some of the major technologies currently being integrated into legal practice, as well as the ways that they are transforming the way law works—and possibly, according to legal scholars, what we mean by “law” itself. By critically situating these new technologies in relation to previous technological (r)evolutions in legal practice—major changes precipitated by technologies like writing, the invention of forms, or the media technology of legal files—this module asks what implications those technologies might have for the lawyer, the court, and for other governmental institutions whose work has traditionally been defined by the pursuit of justice.


Contact hours

Contact Hours: 20
Private Study Hours: 130
Total Study Hours: 150


All undergraduate single and joint honours law programs. Available as an elective module.

Method of assessment

Main assessment methods

In-course test (45 mins) – 10%
Essay (3,500 words) – 90%

Reassessment methods

Re-assessment Instrument - 100% coursework

Indicative reading

• Brownsword, R. and Yeung, K. (eds) Regulating Technologies: Legal Futures, Regulatory Frames and Technological Fixes (Bloomsbury, 2008)
• Goldenfein, J. and Leiter, A. "Legal Engineering on the Blockchain: 'Smart Contracts' as Legal Conduct" [2018] Law and Critique 29(2), 141-149.
• Hacker, P. et al, eds. Regulating Blockchain: Techno-social and Legal Challenges. (Oxford University Press, 2019).
• Hildebrandt, M. Smart Technologies and the End(s) of Law: Novel Entanglements of Law and Technology (Edward Elgar, 2015).
• Parsley, C. "An Office for Technological Times? Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Juristic Thinking" in Goodrich P and McVeigh S (eds) (2020, forthcoming)
• Susskind, R. Tomorrow's Lawyers: An Introduction to Your Future (Oxford University Press, 2017)
• Vismann, C. Files: Law and Media Technology (Stanford University Press, 2008).

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

The intended subject specific learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module, students will be able to:

1. Demonstrate a critical understanding of the fundamental status and role of technology in early modern, modern and contemporary legal
practice in the UK;
2. Display a detailed awareness of contemporary digital technology and media, machine learning, artificial intelligence and other
technologies that are emerging in the practice of law in the UK;
3. Demonstrate a detailed understanding of how key elements of contemporary technologies in legal practice differ qualitatively from
previous technologies;
4. Critically reflect on the way legal technologies relate to broader paradigms of law and normativity;
5. Critically discuss the main contemporary intellectual debates regarding the significance and impact of digital technologies and machine
learning, including in relation to law and the legal system

The intended generic learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module, students will be able to:

1. Demonstrate a range of analytical skills including close reading of a variety of materials;
2. Situate texts within the context in which they were produced and are received;
3. Effectively and independently apply knowledge to analyse complex issues;
4. Write cogently about themes and structures as they appear in selected texts;
5. Formulate and sustain a complex argument, supported by appropriate evidence.


  1. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  2. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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