A four-session virtual event exploring how digital technologies are reshaping the civil justice system
February 10, 17, 24, & March 3, 2021 at 9:00am to 10:30am PST
Legal tech, most agree, is transforming litigation and law practice, and its steady advance has tapped a rich vein of anxiety about the future of the legal profession. Much of the resulting debate has a defensive quality in its focus on what legal tech portends for the professional authority, and profitability, of lawyers. Much of it is also profoundly futurist—full of references to “robolawyers” and “robojudges.”
Lost in this rush to foretell a distant, robotic future are an array of more concrete and more pressing concerns: What is the current state of legal tech and where can it plausibly go in the near- to medium-term? What effect will legal tech’s continued advance — from e-discovery to outcome prediction engines to virtual trials and proceedings — have on core features of our litigation system, and how should our procedural rules adapt in response? How can new digital technologies expand access to justice for low- and moderate-income individuals who often cannot retain counsel or lack the resources or know-how to engage formal legal institutions? And what aspects of judicial administration—particularly data infrastructure and accessibility—need to change in order to promote fair and responsible development of legal technologies and open the doors of justice wider for all? Debate around each of these questions, already heated, is quickening in light of the deep disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This four-session event is designed for judges, court administrators, rulemakers, legislators, academics, practitioners, and entrepreneurs who want to better understand the intersection of legal technology and civil justice and help navigate change in a post-COVID world.
This session will anchor the sessions to come by providing an overview of the state of “legal tech,” from e-discovery and technology-assisted review (TAR) to software that performs advanced legal analytics and outcome prediction, online dispute resolution (ODR) platforms that many courts have begun to deploy, and a growing catalog of digital tools that serve the unrepresented. Drawing together experts on machine learning, the organization of the legal services industry, and legal ethics and lawyer regulation, this session will provide a portrait of the current state of the art and legal tech’s likely trajectory over the near- to medium-term.
This session will consider the implications of the new tech tools for civil litigation and the adversarial system, particularly the ways civil procedure rules may need to adapt as legal tech continues its advance. We will consider, among other things, legal tech’s implications for due process and meaningful participation within the legal system; the promise and peril of the migration to remote proceedings, including virtual trials; and the ways continued advances in legal technologies will shift and perhaps even re-set several of the system’s procedural cornerstones, from proportionality in discovery to the work product doctrine.
This session will focus in on the distributive effects of new legal technologies within the civil justice system. If the 2008-2009 Great Recession is any guide, the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic will trigger a spike in consumer credit and eviction cases, placing substantial pressure on state courts to innovate, including expanded use of virtual hearings, pre-hearing diversion programs, and court-ordered online dispute resolution processes. The coming surge will also bring to a boil an already-simmering debate about the high prevalence of pro se litigants within the system. All of these issues raise important questions about the degree to which the uptake of new legal technologies, and the rules governing their use, will widen or narrow the gap between litigation’s “haves” and its “have nots”—a core concern of anyone working within the civil justice field.
This final session will focus in on a concern that is gaining momentum among civil justice experts: that relatively few actors within the legal system have privileged access to the data necessary to develop and refine effective legal tech tools. Put more concretely, high data costs and the failure of federal and state judicial administrators to make court data available in bulk means that large, corporate-facing tech companies and defense-side BigLaw firms—and typically not plaintiff-side firms, access-to-justice groups, or civil justice institutions—have the data and technical know-how necessary to make effective use of potent new analytics. This session will educate actors within the system—from judges to advisory committee members—about the challenges of access to court data and its uses and abuses and consider innovative new ways to expand access to court data while protecting privacy interests.
Made possible by Stanford Law School in conjunction with the American Association for Justice Robert L. Habush Endowment and Stanford Institute on Human-Centered AI.