Legal Informatics

Legal Informatics
December 13, 2011
Gulfport, Florida
Wilhelmina Randtke
[email protected]
Defining “Legal Informatics”
"Legal informatics . . . pertains to the application of
informatics[, defined as 'the study of the structure
and properties of information, as well as the
application of technology to the organization,
storage, retrieval, and dissemination of
information'¹] within the context of the legal
environment and as such involves law-related
organizations (e.g., law offices, courts, and law
schools) and users of information and information
technologies within these organizations."
Sanda Erdelez & Sheila O’Hare, Legal Informatics: Application of
Information Technology in Law, 32 Ann. Rev. Info. Sci. & Tech. 367,
367 (1997) (a heavily cited definition).
law (noun). the principles and regulations
established in a community by some authority
and applicable to its people
informatics (noun). the study of information
processing; the collection, classification,
storage, retrieval, and dissemination of
recorded knowledge
Conceptual Background:
Changes within the Legal Field
Automation vs. Innovation (Susskind)
Automation = doing the same tasks more efficiently
Innovation = doing completely new tasks
Deterministic vs Uncertain (Surden)
Deterministic tasks are easier to automate
Managerial Legal Informatics (areas from Lucchi)
= automating legal tasks
Documentary Legal Informatics
= electronic legal research tools, like databases
Decisional Legal Informatics
= software for decision making
Legal Informatics: Past Changes
1980s: Widespread use of electronic databases
WestLaw and LexisNexis
Automation (old things done faster)
Citation trails and Shepardizing – now cases in a citation
trail are just a click away.
Headnotes and keynotes – must faster to browse these
when not in book form
Innovation (new things which weren't done before)
Blast from the Past!!!
(Automation = doing the
thing more efficiently)
Something New (that already
Keyword search changed the nature of legal research. See Jill Anne Farmer, A Poststructuralist
Analysis of the Legal Research Process, 85 L. Libr. J. 391 (1993).
Something New (that already
Model of the lawyer thought process
developed by Stuart Sutton in 1985 based
on studies of research using print.
From Stuart A. Sutton, The Role of Attorney Mental
Models of Law in Case Relevance
Determinations: An Exploratory Analysis. 45 J.
Am. Soc'y Info. Sci. & Tech. 186 (1994).
Similar modeling in Fastcase today.
What's happening now?
Progression of legal services from Susskind's End of Lawyers?
Practical Applications
Computer programs apply laws
1) put the laws and regulations into formal logic
Is the area of law certain or less certain?
Do we want ambiguity for policy reasons?
(people can opt in to a more certain system)
2) make questions/queries about facts that align the facts
with the legal structure
Facts can come from a person (ex: yes/no questions to fill out a
Facts can come from a computer (ex: program queries a
3) find matches and mismatches
Can build compliance into the system (ex: overtime pay and
employee time system; ex: vendor's system orders parts when the
customer orders the product)
Lots of mismatches may suggest law should be changed.
Commoditized Law
Easier because
IRS wants people to
succeed (wants forms
to be easy)
No adverse party
Seemingly more difficult
Tax is a complex area
Tax law is probably
more difficult for an
entry level lawyer to
navigate than is county
Successful: Millions of efilings go
Commoditized Licenses
Lay people click through
questions to select a
Widespread use means
search engines can
search by license.
Most of this activity is a new market
– no one would hire a lawyer to
write a license for small content
Some Projects Done in the Open
Next steps in licensing: embedded licensing
Embedded Licensing: SIPX - Stanford Intellectual
Property Exchange
- License terms are embedded in material, and reuse
permissions can be read by computer.
Law built into systems
Monitoring business processes and checking for
compliance with regulations
Timecard systems which check for and pay
Opting in to a private system
Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc.
- When a mortgage is reassigned, recording
requirements apply, down to the county level.
- An alternative is to record the mortgage to MERS, and
MERS tracks ownership (2/3 of U.S. mortgages )
Points to Remember
Research in this area is often not published, and may
even be trade secret.
Research by firms and database companies
- WestLaw Next: Thousands of hours studying how lawyers used the
system was released in the form of product improvements, not
- Knowledge management at law firms leads to internal changes.
- In house software at firms will be released only in the form of
products, and only if a firm realizes it can license that product.
Harder for academics (ie. people who tend to publish)
to research
- Much of this study involves a human component, so there are
restrictions on academic research (ie. IRB approval)
- Studies on lawyers and practice of law raise some specialized
confidentiality issues.
Legal Informatics
December 13, 2011
Gulfport, Florida
Wilhelmina Randtke
[email protected]