Users are more likely to use a legal technology solution if they can place their trust in it. This includes not just the quality of information on offer but critically whether the user believes the tool is there to actually help them.
Technology certainly has the capacity to build credibility and reliability but in its current state lacks intimacy and self-orientation (Leijtens, 2015; Fischer, 2015). For example, it is difficult to incorporate emotional methods of communication such as; body language, gestures, posture, facial expressions, the physiological response of our body, rhythm of speech, the tone of voice or the accentuation into technology (Carneiro and Novais, 2014, p281). The way users interact with technology itself can be impacted when the user is fatigued and performance can even improve when the user is stressed (Carneiro and Novais, 2014, p285). Face to face advice is linked to a stronger emotional connection (Balancing the Advice Needs of Bristol, 2019, p108). Legal issues are often emotionally overwhelming and even more capable clients expressed their need for emotional support in a Bristol study (Balancing the Advice Needs of Bristol, 2019, p108). Legal tech solutions need to incorporate an element of support to allow users to place their trust in them. However, as artificial intelligence develops, technology may soon supplement the need for emotional support using interactive video systems which may make online advice indistinguishable from seeking face to face advice (Smith and Paterson, 2014, p83).
One issue that technology has created is a fragmented legal information market. In 2015 there were well over 600 legal tech start-ups, but many of these start ups “offer solutions to very specific singular problems”(Capturing Technological Innovation in Legal Services, 2017, p99). Providing solutions to isolated issues will not produce meaningful change in improving access to justice, there is instead a need for more clarity in legal information and support. This could be achieved by implementing a comprehensive resource containing all legal information within a jurisdiction. Mitee advocates this approach calling for an “official networked one-stop legal information website” (Mitee, 2017, p1). Centralising this information would allow a user to find legal information easier. For example, WorldLII contains links to over 15,000 law related websites and has multiple databases on its website but its scope of information is inferior to commercial search engines (Greenleaf, 2010).
The UK government is the best placed provider for a comprehensive legal information tool. Further, the government has a legal and moral obligation to provide free and sufficient access to its legal information (Arnold-Moore, 2004; Mitee, The Right of Public Access to Legal Information, 2017). Primary and secondary legislation is provided on www.legislation.gov.uk. However, free access to the common law is largely left to third-party providers such as BAILI who have more trouble providing up to date and reliable information. The issue is that legal information is constantly changing with frequent amendments to existing laws, new court judgments, reversal of court judgments, changes in administrative policies and regulations (Mitee, 2017, p16). A user may therefore find they can place their trust in official websites more to provide accurate legal information. This could be provided by the courts and legislature, publishing everything for free and according to standards (Bruce, 2000).
Technology also presents issues of controlling access to the law where the law itself is controlled by machines. For example, systems using blockchain will be harder to control and regulate (Tajti, 2019, p14; Sklaroff, 2017, p263). Smart contracts are increasingly being used and are “decentralised agreements built in computer code and stored on blockchain”, they are not just a new form of contract but a machine language-based contract (Tajti, 2019, p15; Sklaroff, 2017, p291). This could prove an even greater barrier to an individual attempting to access justice who may have difficulties accessing such a contract and even interpreting it.
Use; Support; Cost and efficiency.
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- Bristol Law Centre, ‘Balancing the Advice needs of Bristol’ (2019) https://www.bristollawcentre.org.uk/about/impact/ (Date accessed: 29/03/2020)
- Bruce, T, ‘Tears shed over Peer Gynt’s onion: Some thoughts on the constitution of public legal information providers’, (2000) The Journal of Information, Law and Technology (2)
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- Fischer, Bill, ‘The End of Expertise’, Harvard Business Review, October 2015 https://hbr.org/2015/10/the-end-of-expertise
- Greenleaf, G, ‘The Global development of free access to legal information’, (2010) European Journal of Law and Technology 1(1)
- Leijtens, N, ‘Design Thinking and the future of Law: Finding the balance between knowledge, processes, and the use of technology’ (2015) Knowledge Management
- Mitee, L. E, ‘Enhancing Public Access to Legal Information: A Proposal for a New Official Legal Information Generic Top-Level Domain’ (2017) European Journal of Current Legal Issues 23(2) http://webjcli.org/article/view/562 (Date accessed: 21/04/2020)
- Mitee, L. E, ‘The Right of Public Access to Legal Information: A Proposal for its Universal Recognition as a Human Right’ (2017) German Law Journal 18(6) https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/german-law-journal/article/right-of-public-access-to-legal-information-a-proposal-for-its-universal-recognition-as-a-human-right/4E7A950C26E52443A93D147BACDA4D07 (Date accessed: 21/04/2020)
- Mitee, L. E, ‘Towards enhanced public access to legal information: a proposal for official networked one-stop legal information websites’ (2017) European Journal of Law and Technology, 8(3)
- Sklaroff, Jeremy M, ‘Smart Contracts and the Cost of Inflexibility, 166 University of Pennsylvania Law Rev., 263 (2017)
- Smith, R and Paterson, A, ‘Face to Face Legal Services and their Alternatives: Global Lessons from the Digital Revolution’ (2014) White Report
- Tajti, Tibor, ‘The impact of technology on access to law and the concomitant repercussions: past, present, and the future (from the 1980s to present time)’, (2019) Uniform Law Review (24.2)
- The Law Society of England and Wales, Capturing Technological Innovation in Legal Services, (2017)