Robot Lawyers and the Technocentric Imagination

Completely inundated by undergraduate business at the moment but the flow of articles examining the immaterial aspects of future law continue. After the UK’s HM Courts & Tribunals Service talked of the end of the ‘physical paradigm’ of law, now a tech start up Ross Intelligence is seeking to create a new searching system for lawyers researching legal precedent and building cases. In the article the  company’s co-founder, Andrew Aruda, talks of improving law’s inefficiency by automating search protocols, improving the processes through which cases are found and widening the databases of case material.

What is interesting in this article is its blind spot for the communication of law outside formal legal processes. While much of this work is dedicated to the operation of corporate law (where the goal may well be squarely focused on improving efficiency), there is a wider need to consider how these technologies could be utilized in criminal law and transitional justice settings, not between lawyers and their databases, but between lawyers and the wider public. As we found in the research in BiH, increasingly improvements in legal communication are solely focused on the input and circulation of material electronically, a process that creates barriers to access (despite the UK government portraying broadband access as a right in the Digital Economy Bill read in the 2016 Queen’s Speech) and assumes that electronic transfer of information is the optimum way of delivering legal information from one party to another.

I am currently working on an ESRC Impact Acceleration Award to explore some of these questions of the utilization of technology to communicate legal processes in the increasing absence of court spaces. This process will explore the implications of such disembodied forms of knowledge transfer for more nebulous issues of trust in the legal process and recognition of the legitimacy of jurisdiction.

Alex Jeffrey, May 2016




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