“Computer Science and Law is very much in the DNA of this institution” - Dr Adam Wyner

Dr Adam Wyner on how Swansea University pioneered this increasingly relevant area of research 40 years ago

Dr Adam Wyner joined Swansea University last month as an Associate Professor in Law and Computer Science. He was a lecturer at the University of Aberdeen for five years before coming here, where he will be focusing on the application of computer science to legal information and systems (LegalTech). He was recently pleasantly surprised to learn that the first AI (artificial intelligence) and Law Conference was held at Swansea University in 1978, and his mission is to revitalise and grow the link between the two disciplines at the university. We caught up with him to discuss his new role:

“My role is a joint appointment between the School of Law and the College of Science’s Computer Science Department. This is, I believe, a first at Swansea University, and I am really looking forward to fulfilling its potential. When the Computational Foundry moves to the Bay, and is physically sitting between other schools, this will increase collaborations, as we share common ground with the schools of management and engineering.

“I have always been very interdisciplinary in my academic career. My undergraduate degree was in Psychology, Linguistics and Philosophy, and I finished my PhD in Linguistics in 1994 at Cornell University. Sensing a change in the academic environment and taking an opportunity, I wrote a second PhD thesis in 2008 in Computer Science at King’s College London on contract automation. So although I don’t have a background in Law, I became interested in applying Computer Science to Law. In my jobs as research associate at the University of Liverpool, AI and Law became the focus of my academic career. This focus continued while a Lecturer in Computing Science at the University of Aberdeen.

“What a lot of people don’t know is that there is a deep link between Swansea University and computer science in relation to law. The first AI (artificial intelligence) and Law Conference was held at Swansea University in 1978. So it is very much in the DNA of this institution, making this a perfect place for me to develop my research in this arena. A strength at Swansea University is that academics in Computer Science and Law now have a proactive interest in this area.

“Until very recently, there was little dialogue or interest in collaborating between law firms and computer scientists. Now we are seeing more interdisciplinary work with law firms, academic institutions, and government offices. There are lots of start-ups serving the LegalTech space.

“I am very excited about the teaching and research potential here at Swansea. For the teaching agenda, we have a 1 year LegalTech LLM, where students learn computing skills (AI concepts, programming, data analysis) while also understanding how the Law applies to software and in the Internet. For the Research and Development agenda, we will collaborate on projects with a range of companies and government offices that we have links with through the Law School.

“Applying Computer Science to Law basically means taking legal content or activity and using computing concepts and tools to analyse and process the content or facilitate the activity. Right now there is so much information available on the internet to so many people. But that puts a pressure on participants and the legal community to adapt to the context. Computational thinking, language analysis, and data analysis are keys to make sense of this information, and I see myself as the bridge person between Computer Science and Law to bring them together, facilitate understanding, and set the agenda for the possibilities for these collaborations.”