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Using artificial intelligence to improve legal services

Using artificial intelligence to improve the justice system

There are many constraints might impede the use of AI in relation to English Law? If these constraints were relaxed, could we unlock the potential of AI to increase access to justice and improve the quality of legal services? A cross-faculty research team from the University of Oxford has begun a 2-year project to investigate these questions and more.

The next generation services challenge is investing £20 million into projects that will explore how new technologies could help essential UK services like insurance, law and finance to become more efficient, productive and globally competitive. This is funded through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, delivered by UK Research and Innovation.

Multidisciplinary team

Researchers from the University of Oxford’s Law, Economics, Computer Science and Education departments and Saïd Business School will work together on 5 complementary work packages that explore a range of ways the potential of AI for English law can be released.

Professor of Law John Armour, who is Principal Investigator for the project, said:

The project team includes members of the Law Faculty, with backgrounds in organisational law and labour markets. These colleagues have been looking at the impacts of technological changes in organisational structures like the gig economy and platform working.

We are also working with members of the Economics Department with expertise on the economics of litigation, members of the Computer Science Department including world experts on AI systems, and colleagues from the Education Department with expertise in professional employers' skills needs.

The research team will also work closely with private sector partners that will provide insight into the collaborations and help determine real-world business requirements.

Oxford University

UK and worldwide potential

Each of the 5 work packages will be led by a sector expert from the university:

  1. looking at how AI is being used in legal services today and the impact on business models and organisational structure
  2. identifying the legal limits of using automation in dispute resolution and determine how tech can be used to increase access to justice
  3. exploring how AI techniques can be applied to legal reasoning
  4. investigating policy choices relating to the provision of skills training for high value services in the UK and competitor jurisdictions
  5. identifying and testing solutions for gaps in skills and education for people in law to make effective use of AI technology

The work packages will come together to identify how to use AI to improve legal services not only for export but also for domestic business and individuals.

A focus on education

One of the outputs from the project will be course materials for those working in these services to learn how to use AI in their work.

Professor Armour said:

In areas like fintech there has been an awful lot of innovation. There’s been innovation in lawtech too, but it’s not yet spread as widely as in finance. In the fintech community the value has been created by automating processes that were previously done by humans. Now financial institutions are looking to automate legal processes.

He continued: "People working in legal services need to learn new skills in order to make the most of the opportunities AI presents. This educational challenge goes right up the career ladder – it is relevant both for students and also for established practitioners. Identifying the educational requirements is a really core objective of this project.

"We’re committed to making the syllabus materials open source so that others from the sector can benefit. The content of the courses will be informed by the various work packages, and this provides a great way of unifying the various parts of the project together and enhancing its real-world impact."