Overhead view of a desk with laptop, notebook and calculator
Overhead view of a desk with laptop, notebook and calculator

Unlocking the Potential of AI for English Law

Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund - The AI and Data Grand Challenge

University of Oxford’s Faculty of Law was awarded £1.2 million to explore the potential and limitations of using artificial intelligence (AI) in support of legal services. 

‘Unlocking the Potential of AI for English Law’ is a research collaboration between various departments within the university including Law, Economics, Social Policy, Computer Science, Education and the Saïd Business School and a range of private sector organisations.

Members of the team will investigate a range of complementary research questions.

These 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.
  • Comparing skills training and technology transfer in the UK with competitor countries such as the US, Hong Kong and Singapore to draw policy implications.

A key output of the project for industry partners is research into training and educational needs for lawyers' engagement with technology and programmers' engagement with law.

The team is currently developing education and training packages to 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: “This is a new technology that has really taken off in the past few years, with lots of advances in different fields. Economists think it is a general-purpose technology that is capable of transforming productivity in the economy as a whole.

“For knowledge- based work it is particularly exciting because it offers to ability to automate things that it was previously thought it would not be possible to automate.

“This has powerful implications for professional services and in the legal services context, to enable us to lower those costs that are currently part of the legal system that create those burdens for industry and citizens to access justice.

“AI and law has export implications as well - the UK is a major exporter of legal services. One of the motivations of this project is to ensure that UK professional services firms are able to maintain their competitive advantage.”

“The project team draws 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.

Why will this change the world?

The ISCF is investing in tech-driven legal and financial services to boost productivity and improve customer experience.

It’s believed that use of AI can reduce processing times and save money for consumers, improve customer engagement, and consider how people interact with technology,

Stephen Browning, Challenge Director of Next Generation Services, UKRI said: 

“AI and Data driven technologies have the potential to transform our services sectors but in order for the UK to derive the biggest benefit, we will need to address not only the technical challenges that application of these technologies requires but also the human behavioural challenges that must be addressed.

“That is why I’m particularly excited by projects that bring multi-disciplinary research to bear, examining business model, behavioural and technical challenges with the use of AI and Data and together addressing Accountancy, Insurance and Legal Services.”

Funder: Economic and Social Research Council as part of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (£1.2 million), November 2018.