Thursday, August 09, 2018

Professional Expertise, Machine Learning, and Blockchain (and in Law too)

(thanks to

My student, Lachlan Robb, and I have put a new paper on SSRN. The paper is

"Professions and Expertise: How Machine Learning and Blockchain are Redesigning the Landscape of Professional Knowledge and Organisation"

The abstract reads

Machine learning has entered the world of the professions with differential impacts. Engineering, architecture, and medicine are early and enthusiastic adopters. Other professions, especially law, are late and in some cases reluctant adopters. And in the wider society automation will have huge impacts on the nature of work and society. This paper examines the effects of artificial intelligence and blockchain on professions and their knowledge bases. We start by examining the nature of expertise in general and then how it functions in law. Using examples from law, such as Gulati and Scott’s analysis of how lawyers create (or don’t create) legal agreements, we show that even non-routine and complex legal work is potentially amenable to automation. However, professions are different because they include both indeterminate and technical elements that make pure automation difficult to achieve. We go on to consider the future prospects of AI and blockchain on professions and hypothesise that as the technologies mature they will incorporate more human work through neural networks and blockchain applications such as the DAO. For law, and the legal profession, the role of lawyer as trusted advisor will again emerge as the central point of value.


Professions, automation, expertise, machine learning, artificial intelligence, blockchain, lawyers, legal services, law, accounting, medicine, knowledge


Wednesday, August 08, 2018

The Accountants Are Really Coming...this time....

(thanks to giant

I'm sure PwC, EY, KPMG, and Deloitte would like to be thought of the same way as these bands, but...dream on. Why are they there? A press release from Karl Chapman popped into my overstuffed mailbox saying Riverview Law has just been acquired by EY.

Despite the hype of press releases, this is a significant move in the legal services market. At bottom it shows two things: NewLaw is coming of age and is now attractive to others; the accountants, particularly the Big Four, are serious about conquering the legal services market. Law firms should be worried because I believe they are on borrowed time.

A few years ago I sat in a meeting at the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) in London discussing how and if accountants should be given regulatory powers in legal services. The accountants said they only wanted powers for probate. They declared they wanted no other regulatory authority. Really? I thought to myself. Surely no one believes that. The lawyers at the meeting also asked the accountants for assurances this would be as far as they would go. The accountants said they aren't interested in anything else. Really? I thought to myself. I suppose you believe what you want to hear.

Riverview has evolved since its inception. It had a role in offering quick responses to general counsel who needed a lawyer at the end of the phone line to answer questions as they arose. Since then it has moved towards legal process work, or what is now termed legal operations. It offers legal departments the same sorts of resources available to HR and procurement departments, for example, along with virtual assistants.

To anyone observing the legal services market, it should have been clear that legal process outsourcing was on a short leash, and I include most of NewLaw here too. Partly because some of it was brought back onshore into law firms' offsite offices, and also because legal process outsourcing is tiny compared to business process outsourcing over which the accounting firms have some dominion.

After the failure of Enron and Arthur Andersen in the early 2000s, it was a matter of time before the accountants moved back into law. They are more canny this time making their legal deployment part of the professional services enterprise rather than merely standalone quasi-law firms.

The Big Four dwarf any major law firm in scale and size. And, moreover, they can devote resources to research and development, something which law firms are only just beginning to learn to do. Even with the discussions in Britain and the EU about whether the Big Four should be broken up, moves into law are an obvious extension to their business. Their only real competitors are the Magic Circle or top New York law firms. But how long will it be before they start thinking about merging?

At a global level, and globalisation hasn't gone away whatever Donald Trump thinks, the big global professional services firms are necessary conduits for modern capital, which means they must have the resources to handle all kinds of business. Expect to see many more of these M&As in the future.


Monday, June 25, 2018

How Courts Compete with Each Other

(thanks to

It can be a harsh world in the world of courts today. Competition is intensifying. Courts not only have to pay their way, they now have to face challenge from equivalent courts in foreign jurisdictions. What might have been a cosy sinecure in the past is now cold and clinical.

International arbitration is the prototypical competitive scene as Stockholm, Paris, New York, and London slug it out for disputes. Countries pass legislation according arbitral communities all kinds of rights in order to help them succeed. Creating competitive courts is a much harder process.

Courts are creatures of government who must use tax monies to fund them when there are many other claims on those pounds, dollars and euros. But to consider them mere cost centres would fail on several levels. If the rule of law is central to society and the economy, no country should skimp on its courts and judges.

England and Wales have long been in the vanguard of promoting British courts and lawyers around the world, actively seeking cases from Russia, the Middle East and China. Indeed the Commercial Court in London built a new court house, the Rolls Building, just for this purpose. While the court fees of thousands of pounds might appear high, they don't deter clients from these areas. They prefer to use the British courts rather than their own, often to the dismay of their countries' justice ministers.

In part countries have attempted to fight back by creating flexible and accommodating arbitral centres, but there are always questions around sustainability and longevity of such institutions among the arbitration community. The only truly new arbitration centre to emerge is CIETAC in China, which speaks to China's international commercial heft. One country that has not sought overseas litigants is the US, although it has a thriving arbitration community.

Now a challenge has come from an unexpected quarter, namely, Paris. The French minister of justice has opened a new commercial court within the Paris Court of Appeal. The court fees are set at Euros 100, much less than the British Commercial Court. The court aims "to offer speedy resolution, transparent decision making and guaranteed enforceability of judgments throughout the EU."

This can be seen as part of the modernisation drive under Macron. His predecessor, Sarkozy, attempted to do something similar making Paris the litigation centre of Europe, but the proposal went nowhere. This is part of a portfolio of changes:
Nicole Belloubet, minister of justice, said the international chamber is one of a series of innovations aimed at creating 'clearer rules of play in tune with today’s global and digital economy’. These include the 2016 reform of contract law - the first substantial change for two centuries - and a measure allowing lawyers from non-EU states to practise as ‘foreign legal consultants’.
While applications have to be made in French, testimony and decisions will be in both French and English, and the judges will be bilingual. One hope is to attract US companies to use Paris as their European litigation centre (post-Brexit perhaps).

How flexible and user-friendly such a court will be is open. The Commercial Court has always been attuned to its users, especially with its Users Group. The Paris fees are cheap but they aren't the key issue. Paris has a thriving arbitration culture with the ICC in residence and its attraction for north-south disputes, but it is multi-cultural. Can the Paris court become the new 'court of pie powder'?

Much depends on how the big international law firms situate themselves if Brexit is successful--I hope not--as well as the financial institutions. Big commercial law is part of a matrix of institutions that includes consultants, accounting firms, law firms, banks and the like. Law firms and barristers' chambers that practise in these fields tend to have offices overseas and see themselves as cosmopolitan and international. I wonder if French avocats feel the same way. However they react it will be good to see some competition in the global legal order. As the English know the returns can be substantial. 


Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Why Do Lawyers Hate Their Clients?

I've been reading about my sociology PhD supervisor, Howie Becker. He's big in France, which is weird because he's the antithesis of theoretical. Unlike Bourdieu, Becker isn't sterile and formulaic. Instead he asks questions about how something is done. There's a rather nice article about him in the New Yorker, which for the English among you would be like being featured on Desert Island Discs. The reason for bringing up Howie is because he refers to his supervisor, Everett Hughes, the great Chicago sociologist.

Howie says, in the New Yorker piece:
“My dissertation supervisor, Everett Hughes, loved the idea that anything you see in the lowly kind of work is there in privileged work, too, only they don’t talk about it,” he says. “Later on, he went to the American nurses’ association and they hired him as a consultant, and he said, ‘Let’s do some real research: why don’t you talk about how nurses hate patients?’ There was a shocked silence and then someone said, ‘How did you know that?’

Of course, this applies across all professions. Doctors hate patients who come loaded with facts from WebMD who would rather self-medicate than take the doctors opinion. At least it looks as if doctors are doing something. You can get better with a doctor; you might even have a new heart.

Funeral directors aren't too keen on corpses either. An ethnographic piece on them (sorry forgotten the cite) showed how backstage FDs called burnt bodies, "Mr Crispy", and drowning victims, "Mr Blobby". And they were more emollient out front with the bereaved.

With lawyers it's almost the same but not quite. Yes, clients might do some research on what they need, but it is harder because legal language is so obtuse and strangled, even for lawyers. But more and more, clients are pushed into this position as legal services become expensive and over-priced for the majority of people. It's harder to see what it is that lawyers are doing for you. You could be free, but most likely you thought you were innocent anyway so no change there. Or, you have a nice, new, shiny fat contract that you can put into a draw and ignore.

Clients hate lawyers because they apparently fuck up your life (to borrow from Philip Larkin). They don't talk English. They talk down to you (because you are ignorant) and won't answer your questions. And all they want is your money but won't tell you how much until it's way too expensive, and you need to remortgage.

I use the example, with students, of going to buy an iPhone, and the Apple store clerk responding to your query about the price saying "I don't know. It might be anywhere between $500 and $1200, but by the time you get to the check out, I'll know and tell you." Not sure Apple would sell many phones that way, but lawyers with hourly billing think this is normal. It's normal for them but not for anyone else. There's just a hint of arrogance and hubris in that view.

If clients are cash cows to be milked for all they're worth, there can be nothing worse than a self-represented litigant. Now before decrying this crime against nature, try to realise that the SRL is probably there because (a) she can't get legal aid, and (b) therefore can't afford a lawyer. No wonder justice wears a blindfold. It's too painful to look at these poor victims being turned over by the lawyers and the judges who also hate them because they clog up the courts. For the lawyer it could be truly awful because the judge might direct the represented party to do the work for the SRL (for free).

It gets much worse, of course. With the move towards self-help, clients look for alternatives and now they are finding them. Legal technology companies are sprouting everywhere. Do it yourself divorce; do it yourself parking ticket appeals (with the help of friendly IBM Watson); do it yourself contracts, tenant agreements and more are all around us now.

To compound the errors these companies actually believe in User Experience and Design. UX is the opposite of what a lawyer should do, since it makes things intelligible for clients. How will you milk them if they control the milking equipment and can read the user manuals?

So there are plenty of reasons for lawyers to hate their clients. And I'm not excluding corporates here. General counsel have been getting far too uppity for their own good demanding budgets from their lawyers and, worse, bringing in their procurement departments to help price legal services.

I watched the Amazon Prime series, Goliath, recently. Don't bother as it's not that good and I only watched the whole of it for research. I'm good at suffering like that for my work. Usual thing of brilliant lawyer, a drunk, dropped out of his BIG law firm, and takes a client who is opposed by big corporate defended by said BIG law firm. Now the senior partner (William Hurt who must have been hurt to play this role) with many dark secrets and a Weinsteinish way with his female partners and associates, not only runs the case for his corporate client (nasty arms manufacturers) but commands the CEO and General Counsel not to contradict him. When the CEO and GC argue for settlement, Hurt simply says no and they roll over for him. It's fantasy but I can imagine many lawyers pining for the good old days when they commanded. Now they follow.

So, if you don't hate your clients, there's something wrong with you and you better get it checked at the local shrink. But don't worry he'll hate you too.


Saturday, December 02, 2017

Law's Missing Institution (Mind the Gap...) A Manifesto for New Ideas in Law

(thanks to

This is a picture of Hong Kong Science Park in the New Territories. It's a tremendous place and I visited it in October while visiting at the University of Hong Kong Faculty of Law. I had gone to see a blockchain startup there, but the visit made me think about why there were no law startups or businesses in the park.

My thoughts here, then, relate to a legal education conference I'm attending at UNSW, an interview on legal education with the Australian Financial Review, and an earlier post on the uberization of law.

Let me start in the mists of time...when the American Bar Foundation was trying to articulate its rationale, the director asked the question: why isn't the ABF the Bell Labs of law? It's a great research institution but it's not Bell Labs, nor should it be. It doesn't create spinoffs and it's not a think tank. But we might need other institutions to take on these roles.

I don't know what to call such an institution, but I can tell you why it's needed and what it should do. We have a massive gap in legal education and it's not purely the fault of law schools. I lay the blame on legal regulators and the judiciary who have virtually no experience in education and therefore should have no role in it. But still they are deferred to whenever the topic of reforming legal education arises.

I should add that what I propose is different from Bill Henderson's idea of a College of Legal Operations, which is based around a series of boot camps to fill gaps. I think there's a much bigger gap to fill and it's not just to do with teaching certain skills although they are necessary.

I would base this new institution in a Science Park, not a downtown office near the law firms. The reason is simple; I want the expertise of people who are dealing with ideas every day, not just those who are in business. They are important...yes.

The new institution must have three roles: first, it must engage in research and development (R&D). Law is terrible at R&D because lawyers and law firms have such short term visions about their work. When it comes to R&D in the cutting edge of law, especially technology and cognitive science and the like, law schools tend to fall behind. The reasons are that they are on the whole narrow minded about their remit, averse to interdisciplinary work unless it falls within a narrow remit, and find it difficult to think in "scientific" ways, which makes the interdisciplinary work difficult. I have reviewed countless numbers of law research grant proposals to American, Australian, Belgian, British, Dutch, and Danish research councils (which means I've forgotten the others). There have been tremendous ideas for research therein, but when they fail, they fail for a particular reason. They can't do methods. Lawyers go all wobbly when they think of methods and it shows. Lots of work to do here.

Second, the new institution must be a think tank. And by this it must engage in public debate and put ideas into the public forum. There are some organisations that do this. For example, UCL's Constitution Unit. But there's no equivalent in law of Brookings or Chatham House, and I suspect this is because lawyers think they have such close connections to power and the state that they simply don't need institutions. They do and so do the public. Policy must be informed by research that challenges conventional wisdom, so we need to go beyond the remits of law reform commissions into areas that potentially don't yet exist but will. Rights for robots is one such area. Will autonomous drones that kill civilians be able to invoke the Geneva Conventions? Caring robots in Japan will want to inherit property and not be switched off. What about land mine detection robots? Can we countenance their injuries? Stupid I'm sure to some, but...

Third, it must teach and impart new skills to law and other graduates for labour markets that will be very different from the closed and monopolistic ones that currently exist. In some ways this bit is close to Bill's college. Ideally though this should be an institution for all levels of the legal market or law, from junior to senior. The senior cadres of law are some of the most restrictive and repressive elements in law. Senior partners in law firms have virtually no incentive to change anything, especially if it involves investment. That means making less money this year...anathema. Admittedly, institutions like Harvard Law School's program for law firm leaders is waking them up but in fact it perpetuates the status quo rather than challenge it. That's not to say law firm leaders don't return home with new ideas, but I have yet to see a law firm truly and really change. Adapt yes, but what if there's a Cambrian explosion?

All three segments of the new institution must cooperate with each other. And, in fact, I'd make the faculty engage in all three sectors.

Some will say I've been on the fringes too long, in wacky programs like Law Without Walls, The Legal Forecast, and Legal Hackers. Certainly I have colleagues who think that way and place me beyond the pale. I disagree of course. We are living in interesting times: blockchain is about to fundamentally change our interactions on the internet; quantum computing will make security an even more hazardous environment; and artificial intelligence is already having deleterious effects on associates' training (or otherwise known as: what training?).

Let me put it the other way. Too many legal academics and lawyers have not ventured into the outerworlds. They are frightened of encountering savages so perhaps a dose of soma is preferable. I'm not sure we can change their minds. If not, then don't waste time. It's time to create new cohorts. But I'm reminded of an earlier story than Brave New World (1932). It's E M Forster's The Machine Stops (1909). In this 12,000 word story Forster shows what happens when people unthinkingly rely on technology to live their lives. It is chilling and prescient. Both Huxley's and Forster's stories are warnings about not facing up to challenge and new ideas; they are stories about conformity versus radicalism. And conformity doesn't come out too well.

For too many years lawyers and the law has enjoyed a monopoly. Has it justified that monopoly. Maybe at times, but not now. Technology is providing us with new ways to create, practice, and consume law, and lawyers don't have to be the only players.

I have a manifesto. I want to break law out of its current antediluvian mindset. Yes, I could move incrementally, but I believe we are in the same position that Europe was in 1848. Revolution is necessary and new institutions are essential to guide the way.

Disclaimers: I own cryptocurrency. I advise blockchain and legal startups. I am a proud Estonian E-resident.


Monday, November 20, 2017

Trust, Anarcho-Capitalism, Blockchain and Initial Coin Offerings

(with thanks to Business Insider)

While I was at University College Dublin I stumbled into something called Bitcoin and blockchain. It sounded strange and slightly whacky to me and I almost ignored it. Something made me persist and so by the time I arrived in Brisbane I knew a little more. And here I stumbled a bit more into a community that talked blockchain. There were developers (mostly unintelligible), lawyers, and entrepreneurs.

I've come some way since then. I give talks on blockchain. I sit on the advisory boards of a number of blockchain startups, and recently I co-organised a conference on blockchain. Recently I was part of a seminar that discussed blockchain with Australia's financial regulators at UNSW in Sydney. The paper below started life at that seminar. It comes out of a project I and collaborators are doing on Initial Coin Offerings (ICO). These took off in a huge way in 2017, raising several billions of dollars in funding. Regulators panicked as in China which forbade them. New Zealand said all cryptocurrencies were securities (I wish someone could explain that one...). Our project has been creating a database of ICOs and we have over a thousand in it. We aim to analyse them quantitatively and qualitatively, and that will be the subject of our next paper.

My co-author, Lachlan Robb, and I have posted our paper, "Trust, Anarcho-Capitalism, Blockchain and Initial Coin Offerings" on SSRN and we invite your comments and critiques. The abstract is below:

"Blockchain--distributed ledger technology--is seen as heralding what some call the internet of trust because it provides an immutable chain of authority that is difficult to hack. Satoshi Nakamoto created an algorithm that required immense amounts of computing power to solve cryptographic problems that when resolved would create consensus throughout the blockchain community by rewarding miners with Bitcoin and prevent the "double-spend" problem. Trust, in either one's opposite party or intermediaries would be unnecessary. The cryptographic work made trust redundant.

Unfortunately, Satoshi could not predict how the blockchain community would behave once the software was launched into the community. Trust became the core issue as different factions among developers and miners squabbled over changes to the software. Trust is also deeply implicated in the ways the community uses blockchain to raise money to fund developments through initial coin offerings (ICO).

In this paper we trace how this these issues emerged in blockchain's short history. We use arguments over block sizes, transaction fees, and hard forks, and the process by which ICOs are run to exemplify our account. We contextualise our story by examining the history of blockchain. Blockchain seems so recent that it doesn't really have a history, but in fact it has a long history stretching back to the Austrian School of Economics. We argue that blockchain can trace its philosophical roots to the anarchy-capitalist strain of the Austrian school. Anarcho-capitalists believe in peer to peer contractual transactions as the foundation for society, They abhor collective action even that which includes the defence of the realm. Dyadic collaborations are sufficient for a society to survive by. Theorists such as Murray Rothbard and Leland Yeager promoted these views in the second half of the 20th century. Satoshi's paper was published in the Great Recession (2008) and incorporated this philosophy. As the blockchain community has developed distributed ledger technology these basic philosophical tensions have surfaced causing dissension and strife. It has all come down to a fundamental issue: who do you trust?"


Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Democracy, Voting and the Blockchain....Digital Democracy....

Right now Horizon State is running its Initial Coin Offering (ICO). Horizon State is a "token-based blockchain voting and decision-making platform that delivers unprecedented trust through the integrity and post-unforgeable attributes of blockchain technology." Or in other words it's a digital ballot box.

Horizon State is the second Australian ICO after PowerLedger, a P2P blockchain trading platform for energy.

My disclosure here: I am a member of the advisory board of Horizon State and very proud so to be. This is one of those projects one can believe in.

The central problem addressed by Horizon State is that voting and elections are centralized and opaque. We have no way of knowing if our votes have been registered, taken account of, or just thrown away. Think of the Kennedy-Nixon presidential election--it was said that Jack Kennedy won because the Mayor made the graveyards of Chicago vote early and often. That's clout....

With blockchain voting becomes transparent and secure. Once you've voted the vote can't be altered. If there is a hacking attempt, it leaves a trail. You know your vote is recorded in the right place so the technology itself creates a system of trust which traditional voting never quite achieves.

Paper is delicate: it suffers in fire and water or simply being put in the rubbish, and it's slow and can get lost. Even electric voting machines aren't safe. DEF CON hackers in 2017 took less than 90 minutes to hack into standard US WinVote voting machines and take control. (They were still using Windows XP. Sounds like the hacks into the NHS computers--XP again.)

We've had good reports of the project. Smith + Crown said "...while its peer companies remain focused on creating a working prototype, Horizon State has begun to develop its vision of creating an ecosystem that can fundamentally shift the way voters inform themselves and relate to the democratic process more broadly. While this approach will likely be emulated by other companies, Horizon State’s advance could be enough, at the very least, to ensure it a considerable stake in what will almost surely become a sizeable market."

Forbes has run an interview with the CEO, Jamie Skella, which puts the point directly:
Horizon State is utilizing distributed ledger technology, otherwise known as blockchain, to deliver a digital ballot box that cannot be hacked. Sharing all of the technological benefits that makes Bitcoin possible - being verifiable transactions of value without a bank - we are using blockchain transactions as votes, while still maintaining anonymity of the voter. The end result is a system that is quicker to orchestrate than traditional voting methods, more convenient for voters which reduces apathy, and far cheaper than centralized, physical voting processes. What is costing Australian tax payers AUS$122 (USD$95) for a marriage equality postal vote would cost in the vicinity of AUS$2 million (USD$157,000) using our system. This equates to a cost per eligible voter of less than $1, instead of $7, or more.
Next year I'm running a new course for law students at Griffith called "21st Century Legal Practice: Professions, Disruption, and Technology" and blockchain technology will play a significant part in the course. Of all the technologies, it is probably the one that lawyers, and people generally, understand least. Time to move law from the 19th to the 21st century then.....


Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Professions and Narratives: Can They Reconstruct Their Futures


I have put up new paper on SSRN titled: "Professions and Professional Service Firms in a GlobalContext: Reframing Narratives".

The abstract reads:

Professions are changing rapidly and profoundly as new technologies, organisational forms, and regulations are introduced into the professional world. As a result, professions are creating new narratives to stake their legitimate claims in the world and justify their positions. This paper examines some of these narratives in the contexts of organisation, globalisation and technology among others. The legal profession is used as a case study of change.


Thursday, June 22, 2017

Back in the USSR...Russia Actually

(thanks to

In this photograph I'm comparing glasses with another delegate at the St Petersburg International Legal Forum. Actually we were at Legal Street, an event held by the Forum and the Russian Ministry of Justice and were being shot by a fashion, as you do.

The last few months have been active, especially in the area of law and technology and new directions for the legal profession. Three events in particular stand out. First is the Law Without Walls ConPosium in Miami; second is the JDHorizons symposium in London; and finishing up with the VII St Petersburg International Legal Forum in Russia. All quite different but with themes in common running through them.

I've written extensively about LWOW in this blog as I have been involved since its inception in 2011. What I will add to my previous comments is the dramatic growth in the students' skills and talents in formulating their projects. In the early days projects would often involve an innovative web portal that enabled people of different kinds to interact. In a couple of projects this year we had students creating chatbots to interact with their audiences. We have students using ideas based on games to coach people in new areas. Their creativity is dazzling. LWOW has now developed an incubator to help develop the winning projects.

LWOW is one of the growing number of programmes that show legal education can't remain trapped in the 19th and 20th centuries, merely based around doctrinal law. New courses such as Iron Tech Law at Georgetown and Law Apps at Melbourne use the Neota Logic platform to develop legal apps targeted at specific problems. Michigan State Law School has LegalRnD for legal services innovation. There is still enormous resistance from conventional law faculty to these types of courses, but among students, when offered them, the clamour for them is strong.

JDHorizons is part of a series of annual events held by Janders Dean, a law firm consultancy. What is unusual about Janders Dean is the way it combines the worlds of practice and academia. Each gets an opportunity to speak to the other, which, as an academic, is so enriching. We had socio-legal scholars, psychologists, lawyers, among others. It means one can be cross-disciplinary as well as cross-professional. Janders Dean is also involved in LWOW.

The VII St Petersburg International Legal Forum is different from the other two. The forum had 4,000 delegates from 70+ different countries. It is as much a forum for networking as it is for exchanging ideas. I was originally invited for one session but ended doing three. The forum is organised by the Russian Ministry of Justice each year on a distinct theme, which for 2017 was law and technology.

I was originally invited to participate in the Plenary session with the Russian Prime Minister, Dimitry Medvedev. Our panel was unusual in that besides myself we had the head of the Swiss Parliament, the CTO of Aliexpress, the head of the UCL Blockchain centre, a co-leader of IBM Watson. The central theme was the disruption of law and legal practice by technology. In particular we discussed how artificial intelligence and blockchain were radically altering our approach to business, life and the professions. (We had a two-hour lunch afterwards with the Prime Minister and the Justice Minister where we carried on these discussion. I have never had such extensive and intensive conversations with politicians before who clearly knew what they were talking about.)

The following two days I talked about law as algorithm as well as the future of legal education.

Normally I don't go to conferences like this. But I am glad I did attend. I had the opportunity to meet with and talk with a range of people, lawyers, academics I might miss. I gained an enormous amount of knowledge and contacts in St Petersburg. (Plus, it is one of the most beautiful cities I've visited.)

In these days of interdisciplinarity academics need to step out of their normal worlds and experience new things, ideas, and forums. It's the necessity to be experimental and innovative. It can be challenging, when over many years one has built expertise and knowledge in specialised areas, to come to grips with new spheres of knowledge where one isn't the expert. We also need to transmit this through our educational systems.

I will admit too as a legal sociologist something like the St Petersburg International Legal Forum is a great opportunity to observe other worlds and try and understand their folkways and rituals.