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Navigating the Fourth Industrial Legal Revolution: Payoffs and Pitfalls for AI-informed Lawyers, Justice and Ethics

Professor Simon Bronitt, Dean of Sydney Law School, University of Sydney


The legal profession and academy no longer stands at a technological crossroads. Having passed into the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’, it is clear that open access to Artificial Intelligence (AI) is driving rapid technological innovation in both legal practice and legal education. Through a series of case studies, this presentation examines potential payoffs and pitfalls of using AI in the automation of routine legal tasks and regulatory compliance. A competence-based approach to AI-use must balance technological proficiency with essential lawyering skills such as critical thinking and sound ethical judgment. As new AI-enabled decision support systems emerge, the legal profession, courts, government and legislature must co-design new standards for AI applications to ensure fidelity to fairness and justice. To prepare and support lawyers to succeed in ‘smart workplaces’, enhanced AI-literacy must be embedded into legal curricula and continuing legal education programs. The presentation concludes that the legal profession and academy, by engaging with AI proactively, can lead the world—as it so often aspires to—in shaping a just legal system for the digital age.


Simon Bronitt commenced as the Head of School and Dean of Sydney Law School in 2019, having held previous academic posts at Australian National University, Hong Kong University, Griffith University and the University of Queensland. Applying comparative and interdisciplinary perspectives, he has published widely on criminal justice matters ranging across criminal law, procedure and evidence, anti-corruption, terrorism, family and sexual violence, and covert policing. He is author of more than 100 articles, chapters and two leading textbooks,Principles of Criminal Law (4th ed., 2017), Law in Context (5th ed., 2024) as well as monographs, Rape Law in Context (2018), and Federal Proceeds of Crime Laws (2024). In 2021, he was elected as a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Law.