Imagine a world without fire or fuel. What if the early man did not happen to rub stones to invent fire that helped us cook food and do much more. We would have been eating raw food without processing or cooking it. The same is the case when we look at data. If we cannot bring meaningful insights, the data is useless.
Parallelly, imagine receiving caseloads of data or multiple documents and figuring what to make out of them. In such scenarios, we often look for informatics to solve the problem. It gives the walkthrough to create a meaningful insight from the unorganised data while keeping the user's purpose in mind. The application of informatics is possibly limitless, and we aim to educate the readers about the prowess of informatics, specifically legal informatics.
Informatics is a branch of science, mainly computer science, that studies the structure, behaviour and interactions of natural and engineered computational systems.
Informatics is an interdisciplinary domain and encompasses:
- Cognitive science involving the study of natural systems
- Computer science concerning computational and design analysis of computing systems
- Artificial intelligence connecting role in designing systems that emulate those found in nature. Informatics also cross-connects with other disciplines, such as maths, electronics, biology, linguistics and psychology.
Thus, informatics links fields with their methodologies and perspectives, bringing together a standard scientific paradigm, common engineering methods and a pervasive stimulus from technological development and practical application.
Evolution of legal informatics
The University of Berkeley states legal informatics stems back to the initial computer and law interaction and was termed Jurimetrics in 1949. The same year the word Jurimetrics was introduced in Minnesota Law Review. Jurimetrics signifies the scientific investigation of legal problems; in particular, it refers to that discipline destined to deal with the issues involving the relationship between law and new technologies.
Jurist Hans Wolfgang used the word Jurimetrics for the first time in 1963 and deduced that legal informatics essentially has three elements, electronic data storage and retrieval, behavioural analysis and the use of symbolic logic.
The Brief overview of Legal Informatics provides an overview of how legal informatics fared through the time. In 1966-67, the new STATUS database was created, which was used to upload the legislation for political reasons. During this time, privacy was becoming an issue in Europe.
The cumulative efforts of the legal fraternity peers led to the JURIS system development. Professors Fiedler, Simitis and Klug came together for this purpose in 1972 and, in the year 1974, formed the Legal Data Processing Committee.
Later in the 1980s saw the rise in personal computers and the beginning of the application base. And in the 1990s, the surge in the use of computers, and applications in the parliament and judiciary.
Millennium picked up the pace with the internet, and a new ecosystem formed. E-discovery and document management, are a few examples.
Usage of legal informatics
The healthcare domain widely uses informatics to derive meaningful insights into the patient's data and create the patient evaluation, knowledge discovery in the medical database, patient risk analysis, and clinical research.
Below are some use cases for the legal informatics:
- Managerial legal informatics – Software tools for managing legal and administrative procedures, computer use in the legal professions, automation in the judicial processes, and drafting of legislative texts.
- Documentary legal informatics – Information retrieval and legal document databases. The information retrieval area comprises designing and developing text indexing, classification and summarisation technologies, information extraction, legal thesauri and retrieval models.
- Decisional legal informatics – Legal expert systems, decision-aiding and legal advising software. The result of computer-aided judicial analysis, mainly studied in the common law countries, is to facilitate in predicting how cases are likely to be decided. It can do so by listing past issues, predictive criteria in the columns, and generally by showing for each factual element the estimated probability of winning a case.
Doorway to legal innovation
Harvard Law School's article on Legal Informatics portrays legal informatics as the entryway to legal innovation, with the core fundamentals of computer science, cognitive science and information technology, and proposes the benefits and risks associated. And following are the benefits associated with innovation in general:
- Lawyers reduced human hours
- Associate retention
- Lower costs to clients
- Better lawyer expertise leverage
However, categorising the risk associated with legal innovation as "why bother?" or "if it isn't broke, don't fix it." Innovation requires time, money, and energy to reach a level of purported usability. And it is equally tough to find the right people to execute.
Another loophole posed by innovation is that new processes or systems are often prone to mistakes.
Legal informatics is the future
Answering "why?" is crucial for any technology to be implemented or not. The Harvard article states that the Innovation helps do away with those activities that "lawyers hate doing and clients hate paying for."
ROI for the organisation might not translate positive for all, as Clayton M. Christensen, a famous American economist, in his book, The innovator's dilemma, pointed out that the return of not innovating is erroneously thought to be flat. However, the baseline of doing nothing leads to losses over time as competitors innovate.
In addition, "more often than not, failure in innovation is rooted in not having asked an important question rather than in having arrived at an incorrect answer." A requisite mindset in innovation is learning through failures, often opposing the risk-aversion perspective of many lawyers.
The legal innovation growth depends on the large market, with a fast sales cycle implies "product-led growth", such as with LegalZoom, Clio and MyCase. These are subscription-based models with add-ons.
A comprehensive study of legal informatics includes core technology and the academic, philosophical, and economic context in which legal innovation operates. Hence, the future lies in the future workforce. The more we train prospective students and practitioners, the how the law interacts with technology. The approach will set the tone for the innovation rather than the current scenario where we produce suboptimal technologies.