Vos named as next Master of the Rolls

Vos: Technology enthusiast

Sir Geoffrey Vos will take over as Master of the Rolls next year, it was announced on Friday, with a new Senior President of Tribunals and eight new Court of Appeal judges also named.

Sir Geoffrey, currently Chancellor of the High Court, will take on the role from 11 January 2021 following the retirement of Sir Terence Etherton – whom he replaced as chancellor too.

Sir Keith Lindblom becomes the Senior President of Tribunals from 19 September, when Sir Ernest Ryder retires.

The Court of Appeal judges will fill vacancies arising from this autumn. They are: Mrs Justice Andrews, Mr Justice Birss, Mr Justice Edis, Mrs Justice Elisabeth Laing, Mr Justice Lewis, Mr Justice Nugee, Mr Justice Stuart-Smith and Mr Justice Warby.

While Sir Terence has maintained a fairly low profile during his four years in post, Sir Geoffrey is likely to be more of an activist, having last year dubbed the Woolf reforms as “inadequately revolutionary”, leaving behind a civil litigation system which is “too expensive, too time-consuming and inadequately accessible”.

A former chairman of the Bar, he has backed online justice, and predicted that technology will revolutionise the way lawyers are educated, trained and used.

Speaking just last month, he said “the one thing” he really wanted to come out of the coronavirus crisis was “blue sky thinking” about how to improve commercial dispute resolution.

The aim should be not to “take the old system and replicate it technologically” but to deliver justice “consistent with those born 20 years ago, not 70.”

Sir Geoffrey has been outspoken in urging commercial lawyers to prepare for the disruptive impact of technology on the law, the legal system and legal profession before others “steal a march” on them, and how, “in legal terms, cryptoassets and smart contracts undoubtedly represent the future” if embraced by the common law.

Lord Justice Vos was called to the Bar in 1977, and took silk in 1993. After a decade as a deputy High Court judge, he was appointed as a High Court judge assigned to the Chancery Division in 2009.

He was also at times a judge of the Courts of Appeal of Jersey, Guernsey and the Cayman Islands. He was appointed to the Court of Appeal in 2013.

He was chairman of the Chancery Bar Association from 1999 to 2001 and of the Bar Council in 2007. He was president of the European Network of Councils for the Judiciary from June 2014 to June 2016.

Sir Geoffrey, former head of chambers at 3 Stone Buildings, has been at the forefront of social mobility initiatives during his career.

As chairman of the Bar he commissioned the Neuberger report on access to the Bar, sat on Alan Milburn MP’s Panel on Fair Access to the Professions in 2009, and is a former chairman of the trustees of the Social Mobility Foundation.

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