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One of the major themes running through London International Disputes Week 2021 was the rise of technology in dispute resolution.
This is a topic the Master of the Rolls, Sir Geoffrey Vos, focused on in his keynote speech. Sir Geoffrey emphasised the need to embrace the progress made during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in relation to online justice. Noting how successful the online claims procedure is for smaller claims, he argued in favour of a broader, holistic online dispute resolution process to include pre-claim issues as well as formal proceedings once a claim has been issued. Sir Geoffrey was confident that England and Wales will continue to lead the way internationally by embracing online justice and technological solutions.
In keeping with this theme, a key core conference session exploring technological advancements to aid dispute resolution looked at the use of technology and artificial intelligence (AI) in the future of dispute resolution in London.
Catherine McGunniess, Chair of the Policy and Resources Committee at the Corporation of London, argued that the technological revolution has already begun. She believes that innovative practices are key to London’s competitiveness and that as a profession we need to encourage investment in virtual tools. With this in mind, HMCTS and the Corporation of London in partnership are introducing a flagship court complex in London to provide new court rooms, with state-of-the-art development and new, innovative technology.
The session showcased examples of new innovations that will assist legal practitioners involved in dispute resolution. LexisNexis provided a demonstration of their latest AI driven product—Context Expert Analytics. This tool helps practitioners find the right expert for their case.
A key problem for lawyers is that finding an expert often relies on word of mouth. Context Expert Analytics combines the UK’s largest collection of case law with more than 16,000,000 author profiles from Elsevier’s abstract and citation database. Using cutting-edge AI technology, it ensures lawyers have instant access to a database of published experts with experience of giving an opinion in court. It also provides insight on case analytics and presents judges’ comments with a sentiment grade to save lawyers manually vetting experts. Practitioners can search by expert name or area of expertise, with additional filters to refine searches to find the right expert. Unlike the traditional word of mouth method of selecting an expert, it removes bias and opinion to allow lawyers to make evidenced-based decisions on who to shortlist and select. Users can check whether experts have provided opinions recently and whether they have experience acting for claimants or defendants. It also allows users to see how experts instructed by the other side have performed in the past.
Dani McCormick, Director of Solutions at LexisNexis UK explains:
“Context Expert Analytics brings unique data and insights to the challenge of identifying and selecting experts. It helps lawyers to work smarter and more effectively. At LexisNexis, we have a phenomenal database of legal intelligence. We are always looking for new and innovative ways to surface information in a way that adds value to lawyers. Our beta clients love how easily they can find new experts and, in particular, how simple it is to validate their expertise and understand how they performed under pressure in court.”
A further demonstration came from My Open Court, an AI-powered legal aid technology. This tool was developed by the conflict analytics lab and allows users to determine whether they have a valid claim and if so, they are matched with an appropriate dispute resolution practitioner. This tool is intended to overcome the problem that most potential claimants do not seek legal advice by assessing whether the claimant has a valid claim. It also allows lawyers can also improve the way they find clients by pairing them up with such claimants.
The session concluded with a panel session involving: Dan Wyatt, partner at RPC; Sophia Adams Bhatti, Head of policy and strategy at Wavelength; Charles Morgan, partner at McCarthy Tetrault; Steven Shinn, CEO of Disputed.io; and Trish Shaw, Vice Chair of the Artificial Intelligence Committee at ITech Law. The panel discussed how AI is already being used successfully in London and that wherever lawyers need to deal with large amounts of data, there is a potential AI solution and platform to assist.
The panel also discussed the ethical considerations involved with AI tools, for example the AI ‘black box problem’. This is where the AI can learn parameters so that it is not clear how the solution has been arrived at. To address this, practitioners need to understand what the AI does and how it works.
More generally, there is an ongoing debate over whether AI should be regulated. Practitioners will be familiar with the European Union’s GDPR, which addresses data, but not specifically AI, although it has a role to play. Outside regulation, guidance is available on mitigating risks, including from the EU. This includes a draft AI Regulation by the European Commission. This is along the lines of the GDPR and includes significant fines for non-compliance. The approach is to divide the AI world into three categories: (1) prohibited systems (eg that are intended to exploit); (2) high risk systems (which should be regulated); and (3) low risk systems (which require transparency for users).
There is no doubt that technology and AI will play an increasing role in dispute resolution and legal systems generally. These are exciting times to be practicing law.
Author: Helen Coverdale, Professional support lawyer, LexisPSL
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