AI and the Future of Law


AI and the Future of Law

The justice sector has a long and successful record of implementing digital solutions. BC developed one of the first fully integrated case and offender management systems for criminal justice agencies and is the first jurisdiction in Canada to implement e-filing in civil court. BC is also a leader in utilizing digital audio recording software that fully integrates with case management systems.

With access to technology that previously seemed impossible, citizen expectations for ubiquitous mobile access to government services has increased. To navigate this new reality, the justice sector is looking at how to use artificial intelligence (“AI”) technology to address business needs and improve access to justice.

One area being explored is the use of AI to improve the court experience for clients. Last year, in collaboration with Innovate BC, the judiciary, and other partners, the ministry ran a public competition to showcase AI solutions to real, client-informed, justice sector business challenges. The outcome was over 15 proofs of concept from 12 technology companies.

One of the business challenges is whether AI technologies can help self-represented clients attend their scheduled court hearings. Using AI enhanced optical character recognition, clients use their cellphones to take a photo of the document they received. The software analyzes the information; provides a plain language overview of the document; diarizes the court attendance time and date; and, using 3D navigation software, helps them navigate their way to the court house and court room.

Another business challenge is how to use AI to help clients with their family justice matters. A smart online interactive guide in multiple languages (e.g. English, French, Mandarin and Punjabi) is being developed. This solution assists clients in accessing family justice services, while helping address language, literacy or visual barriers. The development of a “Chatbot” or interactive AI augmented guide to help clients navigate probate, wills and estate matters is also under consideration.

The ministry is exploring AI enhanced voice recognition to automatically transcribe court audio quickly and affordably, with a high rate of accuracy, and developing an intelligent reviewer that helps retrieve large volumes of information and data; analyzes the data; and intelligently retrieves the most salient points to support legal research, reviews, assessments and decision making.

Work to develop these products into viable solutions will continue. Products will continue to be tested with clients before being further developed, in 2020, if successful. Simultaneously, to ensure our laws can be modernized, a review of legislation and regulations to identify barriers to innovation and the use of new digital technologies is underway.

Introducing new technologies responsibly will provide citizens or court users with better access to the justice system so they can resolve their legal matters more quickly, easily and affordably.

It is important, however, to remain aware of the possible misuses of AI and not fall prey to the technological imperative that sees new technology through a somewhat deterministic lens, and without sufficient awareness of the potential impact of those technologies. For example, a recent NY Times (“NYT”) article notes that China is apparently using facial recognition technology to monitor the Uighurs, a Muslim minority, to conduct arbitrary searches; a practice the NYT characterized as “automated racism.”

For the justice sector there is also a need to be vigilant around algorithm bias, a phenomenon that emerges because algorithms are created by individuals whose own conscious or unconscious inclinations may result in unintended consequences. The launch of Google’s facial recognition feature was an unhappy example of this bias as racially diverse users were often incorrectly tagged as not human.

This is not to suggest that AI does not show promise to help address access to justice barriers; only a caution that we approach this technology with care so that we are advancing, not jeopardizing access to justice.

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