A leap forward for legal technology research, led by Professor Wolfgang Alschner

Posted on Friday, October 2, 2020

Law governs every aspect of our lives. But navigating law’s thousands of norms and millions of documents is challenging – even for lawyers. A new research lab at the University of Ottawa seeks to harness technology in an effort to reduce law's complexity. By treating legal texts as data, thousands of contracts or judgments can be investigated, categorized and analyzed within seconds, making law more accessible to everyone. This is the mission of uOttawa’s new Legal Technology Lab.

Funded by the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), this new interdisciplinary lab is a joint effort by the Faculties of Law and Engineering, led by Common Law’s Dr. Wolfgang Alschner and Dr. Diana Inkpen of the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. The Common Law Section has long been at the forefront of research on law and innovation through its world-renowned faculty and its Centre for Law, Technology and Society (CLTS). In light of the legal world’s growing complexity through the generation of ever more legal norms and documents, the development of new legal technology that enhances lawyers rather than replacing them is of paramount importance.  More intelligent search tools or improved document analysis support have become necessities as the legal profession adapts and transforms to meet the demands of the 21st century. Dr. Alschner’s expertise in the application of data analytics to the empirical study of law, combined with Dr. Inkpen’s expertise in computational linguistics and machine learning, add a new dimension to the world-leading work on law and technology already being done through the CLTS, clearly positioning uOttawa among the world’s leaders in the emerging field of computational law. Already, the lab is engaged in cutting-edge research on legal text mining and the automation of legal processes. The researchers are exploring state-of-the-art methods and technology for legal information extraction, automated legal content analysis and autonomous drafting of legal documents.

Most recently, the Legal Technology Lab has partnered with the uOttawa Public Law Centre on a project led by Professor Carissima Mathen that will use state-of-the-art legal data analytics to investigate Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) decisions, specifically probing how the Court has addressed equality claims. This project is funded by an Insight Development Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC). Read more about this project here.

As one of the only labs of its kind in the world, the Legal Technology Lab will harness the expertise of its researchers to facilitate the development of legal technology applications that will support the day-to-day work of lawyers, access to justice for ordinary citizens, and the demands of legal technology sector in Canada.  It will also promote legal technology education and serve as an incubator to promote legal technology entrepreneurship, particularly among uOttawa students.

The new lab is housed in Simard Hall.  Click here for more information on the new Legal Technology Lab.

The Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI) invests in state-of-the-art infrastructure that enables world-class research.  Click here to visit the CFI website.

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