Legal Technology and Informatics
Legal technology is rapidly transforming both the practice and nature of law. This class seeks to explore both the current trends and the future possibilities of this transformation, as we begin to train the future generation of technology savvy lawyers, and technologists who understand the intricacies and potential of what the law could be. Legal informatics could be defined as a computational perspective of law: where does legal information reside, how is it manipulated, and which algorithms and data structures are used in various legal functions? Note that there are no prerequisites for this class beyond an interest in the subject. There are numerous examples of technologically driven legal transformation. Case law search has moved from hard copy to closed digital systems such as Westlaw and LexisNexis, and into free cloud-based systems such as Google Scholar and Wikipedia. More and more statutes are available online. Changes can be seen in e-discovery, privacy, the delivery of (online) legal services, and the budding legal technology startup community. As a result, questions arise as to the proper statutory and ethical boundaries between humans and machines in implementing legal activities. Beyond the current and near-term technologies, however, are core academic and philosophical questions that will have increasing import as machines gain in sophistication and capability. For example, although the law differentiates between the responsibility assignable to minors compared to adults, we are far from identifying the point at which an agent or robot is morally responsible for its own actions, as opposed to the responsibility being assigned to its creator.