Innovation in Law

  • October 01, 2018
  • David J. Bilinsky

New ways of moving things forward

♫ I found some new innovations
Might just be my imagination
But people can dream...

– Music and Lyrics by R. Tedder,
N. Zancanella, B. Kutzle,
recorded by One Republic

David BilinskyWhat does it mean to be innovative in law? Simply changing laws may have some effect on greater access to justice, but true innovation, in terms of increasing access to and satisfaction from the legal system, I believe, means thinking and doing things differently. After all, Albert Einstein once famously said: “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” Or as W. Edwards Deming, the management consultant who played a large part in Japan’s industrial rebirth, said: “The prevailing style of management must undergo transformation. A system cannot understand itself. The transformation requires a view from outside.”

Insights such as these highlight that trying to change the judicial/legal system by updating laws without adjusting the system within which those laws operate, howsoever meritorious, is little more than rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. New approaches are required to bring about real change. What efforts are being taken in this regard?

On Sept 21, by combining data and innovation, the Lagos Innovating Justice Conference will address how justice could be made more accessible and user-friendly. By combining data (from the Justice Needs and Satisfaction Survey, a first of its kind, massively participative survey of the justice needs of the average Nigerian) with technology and law, it will seek to birth new ways of how to leverage technology to drive access to justice for citizens.

The College of Law Practice Management recently announced the 2018 winners of its Innovaction Awards. One winner was LawGeex, an Artificial Intelligence (“AI”) contract review automation company. Its AI platform is aimed at spotting risks in everyday business contracts. A study held in collaboration with top academics at leading universities placed LawGeex up against top US lawyers. The LawGeex AI achieved an accuracy of 94%, while the lawyers achieved an average of 85%. Furthermore, it took 92 minutes for the lawyer participants to complete all five NDAs compared to only 26 seconds for the LawGeex AI.

Money, I was always advised, talks. Well, two venture capital investors are talking with their wallets in terms of the future of legal disruptors. San Francisco-based Atrium (a tech-powered platform providing flat-fee legal services to the startup community) received $65 million in new funding just days after Toronto’s Kira Systems (an automated contract review company) trumpeted a $50 million minority investment.

Last by not least, China’s second Internet court is about to open in Beijing. The Beijing Internet Court is given the jurisdiction to handle certain types of Internet-related cases that should be tried by a primary-level people’s court such as disputes arising from online shopping, service contracts, lending, copyrights, and domains. The court will be open 24-hours a day and proceedings of each case, from lawsuit filing to mediation, hearing, and judgment announcement — will be accessible online. China’s first Internet court opened in August 2017. In its first year, the court heard about 12,000 cases and closed about 10,600.

Might be just my imagination, but I have a dream that law can achieve greater access to justice by reaping the benefits of technology from new innovations.

The views expressed herein are strictly those of David Bilinsky and do not reflect the opinions of the Law Society of British Columbia, CBABC, or their respective members. 

David J. Bilinsky is the Practice Management Advisor for the Law Society of British Columbia
(presently on leave).