Gray's Inn

Lecture - Birkenhead X

16 October 2017 - 18:00 to 20:30

The annual Birkenhead lecture will be 'Online Courts and the Future of Justice' delivered by Professor Dame Hazel Genn DBE QC (Hon), Professor of Socio-Legal Studies in the Faculty of Laws at UCL and Honorary Bencher of Gray’s Inn.

The lecture will be followed by a drinks reception.

Location: Hall
Registration: 17:45
Qualifying Session: 1 QS
Equivalent to 1 CPD hour (view the Bar Standards Board guidance for CPD)


Barrister members of all four Inns, solicitors and student members of Gray's Inn may attend this event.  

  • Students (Gray’s Inn student members only): £10
  • Barristers within 3 years of Call: £10
  • All others: £15

You must present your printed bar coded ticket at the door to enter the lecture.

Book now

The Talk 

'Online Courts and the Future of Justice'

Courts and tribunals are on the brink of radical change. In a joint vision statement in 2016 heralding this transformation, the Lord Chief Justice and Senior President of Tribunals promised to harness the power of technology to provide a justice system that would work ‘even better’ for judges, professionals and litigants. The vision involves more than banishing paper. It includes embedding online dispute resolution (ODR) and online final determination into court and tribunal processes. The programme is being taken forward at a rapid rate, with HMCTS already piloting online processes and virtual hearings. Many find the pace of change exhilarating and, in a recent speech, the Master of the Rolls hailed the opportunity to build a new civil court – digital by default and design – that is ‘more capable of securing equal justice for all’.

This lecture reflects on the potential of technology for improving access to justice, the challenge of online courts to the idea of justice being performed in public, and to the common law adversarial tradition of synchronous adjudicative procedures. As we move inexorably forward, there are questions to be asked about how we manage these fundamental shifts in process; which cases we deem to be worthy of a physical public hearing and why; how we prepare litigants and the profession for the world of online dispute resolution; how we train judges for online working, and the attractiveness of life as a cyber judge.

The Speaker

Dame Hazel Genn is Professor of Socio-Legal Studies in the Faculty of Laws at UCL. She was Dean of the Faculty 2008-2017 and is currently Director of the UCL Centre for Access to Justice and Co-director of the UCL Judicial Institute. Dame Hazel is a leading authority on access to civil and administrative justice. Her prize winning scholarship focuses on the experiences of ordinary people caught up in legal problems and the responsiveness of the justice system to the needs of citizens. She has conducted numerous empirical studies on public access to the justice system and has published widely in her specialist fields. She is author of Paths to Justice: What People Do and Think About Going to Law (1999) a seminal study of public access to justice which has since been replicated in 27 jurisdictions around the globe. In 2008 Dame Hazel delivered the Hamlyn Lectures on the subject of civil justice. The Lectures were published by Cambridge University Press in November 2009 entitled Judging Civil Justice. In 2012 she delivered the F A Mann Annual Lecture on ‘Why the Privatisation of Justice is a Rule of Law Issue’ and the Atkin Memorial Lecture on ‘Do it Yourself Justice: Access to Justice and the Challenge of Self-Representation’. Her work has had a major influence on policy-makers around the world and she is regularly invited to lecture and provide advice abroad. Consistent with her interest in public use of and experiences of the justice system, she has led a Task Force on Public Legal Education (PLEAS). In 2013 she established the UCL Faculty of Laws Centre for Access to Justice, and has recently developed its activities into an innovative partnership with a GP practice in East London to deliver free legal advice to vulnerable patients within the practice.

Dame Hazel has been appointed to numerous public service roles concerned with the justice system. She worked with the Judicial College (formerly Judicial Studies Board) for more than 15 years developing and delivering training for the judiciary. In 2006 she was appointed an Inaugural Commissioner to the England & Wales Judicial Appointments Commission and served on the Commission from 2006-2011 appointing judiciary at all levels including to the Court of Appeal and UK Supreme Court. She was a member of the Committee on Standards in Public Life 2003-7 and in April 2009 she was appointed to the Secretary of State's Advisory Panel on Judicial Diversity. She has been a Fellow of the British Academy since 2000, and was Vice President and Chair of its Communications and Publications Committee 2008-11. In 2005, she was awarded the US Law and Society International Prize for distinguished scholarship and she holds Honorary Doctorates from the Universities of Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Hull, Leicester, Keele, Kingston and York.

In recognition of her contribution to the justice system, Dame Hazel was awarded a CBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours List in 2000 and appointed DBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours List in 2006. In 2006 she was also appointed Queen's Counsel Honoris Causa and in 2008 she was elected Honorary Master of the Bench of Gray's Inn.

The First Earl of Birkenhead

The first Earl of Birkenhead, Frederick Edwin Smith GCSI, PC, KC was widely known for his witty retorts in both politics and the law.   He was a renowned  debater, barrister and parliamentary performer.  However, his  witticisms could also be considered offensive.  Indeed, his offensiveness took on an almost mythical nature in the retelling of his retorts in both Parliament and in the courtroom.  


Members of Hall, students and non-members: Please use the Gray's Inn Online System (GIOS) to book your place. (Non-members will be required to register first if using the booking system for the first time). 

Students please see booking Qualifying Sessions for further information regarding:

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Also see the dress code and rules which apply to all QSs.