Building Sustainable Free Legal Advisory Systems: Experiences from the History of AI & Law
22 Pages Posted: 21 Aug 2017 Last revised: 22 Aug 2017
Date Written: August 17, 2017
The enthusiasm for artificial intelligence (AI) as a source of solutions to problems is not new. In law, from the early 1980s until at least the early 2000s, considerable work was done on developing ‘legal expert systems.’ As the DataLex project, we participated in those developments from the outset, through research and publications, commercial and non-commercial systems, and teaching students application development. This paper commences with a brief account of that work (with references and links to all published papers).
The perspective of this paper is an assessment of what might be of value from the experience of the DataLex project to contemporary use of ‘AI and law’ by providers of free legal advice services, who must necessarily work within funding and other constraints in developing and sustaining such systems. We draw fourteen conclusions from DataLex’s experience which we consider are relevant from that perspective. The desired result, we argue, is the development of integrated legal decision-support systems, not ‘expert systems’ or ‘robot lawyers’.
The paper concludes with brief suggestions concerning the future development of the DataLex project tools and approaches within the context of the Australasian Legal Information Institute (AustLII). The objectives of free access to legal information services have much in common with those of free legal advice services. The information resources that AustLII (and other LIIs) can provide will often be those that free legal advice services will need to use to develop and sustain free legal advisory systems. The key challenge is for LIIs and free legal advice service to find achievable applications that meet the needs of clients and add value to decision-making that cannot otherwise be achieved at equivalent cost or quality.
Keywords: AI, artificial intelligence, legal expert systems, legal decision support systems, Australia, AustLII, DataLex
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