Accessibility has proven a consistent barrier to justice and legal services, impacting both ends of the scale with inefficiency and long processes and approaches that have been outdated by the modern world.
The rapid evolution of technology has, until more recent years, somewhat surpassed the legal sector. However, with increasing demand for more innovative and efficient ways of working and improved access to justice, the world of technology has begun to trickle into the legal sphere. LegalTech is quickly becoming a hot topic, with adoptions in AI, blockchain and machine learning amongst the many ways to improve and streamline access.
Legal Innovation Lab Wales is tackling the challenge of bridging the gap between law and accessibility with the aim of improving legal accessibility for all.
Supported by the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government, Legal Innovation Lab Wales, based at the Hilary Rodham Clinton School of Law, is fostering a LegalTech community. Working in collaboration with organisations across the legal, public and third sector to support the growth and sustainability of a vibrant LegalTech economy, the aim is to improve access whilst also transforming the delivery of legal services throughout Wales and beyond.
Our interdisciplinary team of researchers develops new data-driven insights into legal knowledge that support transformative LegalTech research, contributing to new innovative technologies that tackle problems such as document discovery, knowledge representation, contract negotiation, and more. Bringing together staff working in both academic research and software development, the Lab has a unique opportunity to design and deliver rapid requirement specification, software prototyping solutions and proofs-of-concept software for further growth of the LegalTech sphere.
By leveraging innovative technologies such as blockchain, artificial intelligence, smart contracts and big data, Legal Innovation Lab Wales is working to provide data-driven support for legal decision-making and allow insightful, efficient ways to deliver tailored legal advice and improve accessibility. The Lab has delivered a significant number of impactful projects and events with collaborators from around the word as well as a number of local community outputs.
Recent collaboration projects include:
- Legal Rights Chatbot
In investigating ways of making legislation more accessible to the public, the Lab created an interactive chatbot, using artificial intelligence to answer questions and point users to the relevant provisions of law.
Given the current climate and the uncertainty a number of people in Wales face around housing and housing rights, the Lab research team designed a chatbot around the Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016. Transforming the Act into a machine-readable format, Lab researchers were able to apply natural language processing (NLP) to turn all this information into a Q&A database that would allow the chatbot to quickly source appropriate information relevant to any questions asked by its user and provide fast and direct answers.
- My Journey
Working with Dr Gemma Morgan, and Include UK and their service users, the Labs software development team helped in the creation of a web app that will assist prison leavers on their rehabilitation journey. The app comprises two interfaces, one side for team members who are criminal justice practitioners such as probation officers, and the other for prison leavers, the primary service users.
Prison leavers can utilise the app to record their well-being and day-to-day emotions as well as record any issues, write journal entries and keep track of their appointments, contacts, and goals. Team members then have the ability to access the information input by service users to provide them with tailored support to reduce the risk of future offending.
The app has additional functions that provide well-being support, including automatic recommendations for local services such as food banks which are autogenerated based on each user’s individual entries.
Supporting the work of Professor Nuria Lorenzo-Dus, the Lab has assisted in the development of technology for countering online grooming of children as part of the Developing Resistance Against Grooming Online: Spotter and Shield (DRAGON-S) Project, which is funded by Safe Online at End Violence. The team supported the creation of two interrelated tools; DRAGON- Spotter, an online grooming detector, and DRAGON-Shield, an online grooming prevention portal. The team developed the DRAGON-Spotter tool as an interface to aid law enforcement in the detection of online grooming. The DRAGON-Shield tool was also developed to relay specialist knowledge to child safeguarding practitioners about groomers’ and children’s communicative behaviour during online grooming through a learning portal.
Examples of the Labs research topics:
- Regulation of new technologies
- Blockchain and smart contracts
- Legal analytics and data science
- Standardisation in representation of legal knowledge
- More information can be found on the Labs website