A project led by the Faculty of Law at the University of Oxford has been awarded £1.2 million to explore the potential and limitations of using artificial intelligence (AI) in support of legal services.
The award, from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), will fund the project ‘Unlocking the Potential of AI for English Law', a research collaboration between various departments within the University of Oxford including Law, Economics, Social Policy, Computer Science, Education and the Saïd Business School and a range of private sector organisations.
The stakes for AI's implementation in UK legal services are high. If executed effectively, it is an opportunity to improve legal services not only for export but also for domestic business and individuals. This research seeks to identify how constraints on the implementation of AI in legal services can be relaxed to unlock its potential for good.
The research team will work with private-sector partners representing a range of different positions in the legal services sector, including international law firms Slaughter and May and Allen & Overy; barristers Robin Dicker QC and Ryan Perkins of South Square Chambers; solicitors' professional body the Law Society; legal technology leader Thomson Reuters; lawtech start-up LexSnap and legal education charity the Legal Education Foundation. These collaborations will ensure that the research benefits from insights into, and testing against, real requirements.
Members of the team will investigate a range of complementary research questions. These will include: investigating emerging business models deploying AI in law to help identify best practice in governance and strategy; understanding the potential for application of AI in dispute resolution; exploring the application of new AI methods to legal reasoning; and comparing skills training and technology transfer in the UK with competitor countries such as the US, Hong Kong and Singapore to draw policy implications. The fulcrum of the programme will be research into training and educational needs for lawyers' engagement with technology and programmers' engagement with law. The team will develop education and training packages will be developed that respond to these needs for delivery by both universities and private-sector firms.
Professor John Armour, from the Faculty of Law, leads the multi-disciplinary team working on the project. He said "I am delighted that we will be able to embark on this innovative and timely programme of research. The project team will draw on relevant expertise from a wide range of disciplines across the University, and we will work together with a number of private sector partners who are also engaging with these issues. It is hugely exciting to be able to work with such an outstanding team."
Coordination of the interdisciplinary team was facilitated with the support of the Business Engagement and Partnerships team at the Social Sciences Division of the University of Oxford, led by Esther Brown.