Justice and Legal Apps - With Dr Bin Li and Prof Tania Sourdin
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Chris Patterson 00:06
Hello and welcome to the Law Down Under Podcast with barrister Chris Patterson. We will give you insights into the law in New Zealand and Australia, its application, and the law's future. Each episode features a new guest who will inspire interest in the law and give you a greater understanding of the legal issues that helped shape our justice system here down under. We thank you for tuning in and enjoy the podcast.
With me on the podcast this morning, I'm delighted and privileged to have two guests. Both of my guests are from the University of Newcastle Law School. First up, I have Professor Tania Sourdin with me, who is the dean and the head of the law school at the University of Newcastle. She has been in that role since 2016. She has a law degree and a Bachelor of Arts from the University of New South Wales. She's got an LLM and a PhD in conflict resolution from the University of Sydney. Her career has focused on justice litigation, conflict avoidance, and dispute resolution. Previously, Tania was the director of the Australian Centre for Justice Innovation at Monash University, and she was in that role until 2011. She has held part-time senior tribunal appointments at the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and Consumer Trader and Tenancy Tribunal for over 20 years. She has trained judges, ADR (alternative dispute resolution) practitioners, lawyers, and others in relation to justice, innovation, high conflict behavior, mediation, ADR processes, negotiation, and more. She has taught judges in programs on court craft, court civil procedure, decision making, complex behavior, and judicial orientation programs. She is the author of more than 135 books, articles, and papers focused on justice reform issues, ADR mediation, conflict resolution, collaboration, law, artificial intelligence, tech organizational change. Her research projects have included justice innovation in 14 courts and tribunals and six external dispute resolution schemes. She's looked at how people experience courts and the justice processes, including the cost, delay, etc. She's influenced and led legislative reform. Past research projects have focused on innovation in judging timeliness, self-represented litigants, technology, justice, ADR complaints handling, and her recent books include "Alternative Dispute Resolution," which was published in 2020. It's in its sixth edition as of September 2020. Judges and Technology. Welcome, Tania. How are you?
Prof Tania Sourdin 02:36
That was such a long introduction.
Chris Patterson 02:39
I was gonna say you must be at least 105 to have produced all that.
Prof Tania Sourdin 02:45
Oh, I am. Tony could sit down doddering around with a walking stick in my office as we speak.
Chris Patterson 02:51
Also in your office is Dr. Bin Li, who is a senior lecturer at the University of Newcastle Law School, where he specializes in law, science, technology, as well as space maritime aviation law. Prior to lecturing at Newcastle, Dr. Li worked as an associate professor at Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics School of Law in Beijing, which, of course, is in China. Since starting his legal career in 2007, he's published numerous journal articles and chaired or led research projects in the area of aerospace law. It was after moving to Australia that Dr. Li decided and began his research in a new domain, being technology and justice. His work in this area seeks to shed greater light on how technologies such as artificial intelligence are used within the justice sector and how they impact dispute resolution processes. As with Professor Tania Sourdin, he's also the other co-writer of the book on that matter, which is "Digital Technology and Justice Apps." Good morning, Bin. How are you?
Dr. Bin Li 04:00
Hi, Chris. I'm well. Thank you. That was a very nice introduction. Thank you.
Chris Patterson 04:05
Thank you. I'm just I'm so delighted to have you both on. I'm super excited about what we're going to discuss today. It's an area that I'm absolutely passionate about, mainly because it segues into access to justice. I think when we start focusing on putting resources and research and investment into matters like, you know, and developments, innovation, like justice apps, you know, we can really open up access to the doors of justice, access to justice to those that would otherwise be cut out of that opportunity. So I'm really excited. I really am. Now, tell me, what should I take a look? I look, I'm not going to presume anything here. Newcastle has lived in Newcastle the longest.
Dr. Bin Li 04:53
Probably been. Yeah, yeah. I commenced at the law school early in 2016. But a few months earlier than Tania, basically in the same year.
Chris Patterson 05:04
Now it look, Newcastle is one of the very few cities in Australia that I haven't been to. I lived and worked in Sydney for a bit. And I've just recently come back from Hastings Point, which is very northern New South Wales, but I've never been to Newcastle. So maybe I could ask both of you when I start off with you, Bin, what's your favorite thing about Newcastle? What do you love the most about it?
Dr. Bin Li 05:36
Well, the beautiful weather here, and also we have a very prestigious wine area. Wow. Okay, very close to Newcastle.
Chris Patterson 05:46
Oh, fantastic. Okay. And Tania, what's what do you love about Newcastle?
Prof Tania Sourdin 05:52
So it's a great city. It's a really good size. It's about 500,000, but more than a million, I suppose in the hinterland. And it's all beaches on one side. And as Ben said, wineries on the other. So what's not to love? Quite an arty, sort of innovative city as well.
Chris Patterson 06:09
Okay. Going back to the law school, you know, roughly, do you know the mix of law students that you've got at the school, who are either Newcastle locals versus those that have come from out of town or such?
Prof Tania Sourdin 06:24
Oh, I've gotta have to check on those stats. We have about 1200 students in the law school. And I would say that probably about 60-65% of them are local or within our immediate region. We do get a number who come in because it's a bit of a university town, I think.
Chris Patterson 06:45
Oh, look, I mean, it sounds like a great place to live and study. I mean, it just does really sound lovely. Let's talk about digital technology and justice apps. Can I start with you, Bin? What sparked your interest in this area?
**Dr. Bin Li 07:03**
Well, I commenced law school in 2016, and I began teaching alternative dispute resolution, where technology has been introduced in dispute resolution processes. I found the interaction of technology and dispute resolution processes quite fascinating. I have been very fortunate to have Tania as my colleague, who is an expert on both dispute resolution processes and technologies. I started to work on this topic a few years ago.
**Chris Patterson 07:42**
So Ben, can I ask this, I mean, you obviously have a background in aerospace law, astronautics, and aeronautics. These are quite technical and technology-focused areas. Has that given you a bit of a segue into technology innovation in the delivery of justice?
**Dr. Bin Li 08:13**
Yes, it has had a very positive inspiration on my end. Since I was starting my career in China, I found it important for people to understand the interaction between technology as a whole and the justice system. So definitely, my experience in aerospace law and technology has had an effect on my interest in justice and technology as well.
**Chris Patterson 08:48**
Okay, well, I'm now going to pass the conversation over to you, Tania. What sparked your interest in this area?
**Prof Tania Sourdin 08:57**
I was probably a pretty early tech adopter. When I was an expert legal expert for the Australian Law Reform Commission in the late 1990s, we had a big inquiry on managing justice and improvements. As part of that, I contributed to the writing of issue papers on technology. In 2003 and 2007, I had two very large Australian Research Council grants, which were considering ways to set up AI systems in relation to litigated matters. As a result of that, I, together with a team I was working with, built two systems that I think are expert systems now rather than machine learning systems. But for many years now, I've worked quite a lot in the tech innovation space and certainly did so at Monash during my time. I've had a number of different projects over the years, including a large collaborative research network involving about 120 scholars worldwide who are looking at technology and how it will reshape the way courts function.
**Chris Patterson 10:13**
Can I ask both of you then, what do you believe technology can offer the justice system? What is it capable of delivering?
**Dr. Bin Li 10:30**
I can start here. Technology has a very influential effect on the delivery of justice services. In terms of Access to Justice, we know that the general public, or specifically disputing parties, require or expect quick, cheap, and just outcomes for their disputes. Technology can help achieve that goal by providing quicker, cheaper, and equitable justice to the parties.
**Chris Patterson 11:24**
Tania, your thoughts on that one?
**Prof Tania Sourdin 11:27**
I think technology can offer various things at different points of the justice system. I normally break up technological innovations into supported replacement and more disruptive technologies. They can each offer opportunities in terms of reducing costs and providing greater access to people within the justice system. If we're talking about humans, there's also opportunities for matters to be resolved through more sophisticated forms of AI, which might be what the litigants want in certain circumstances where time and cost reductions are significant.
**Chris Patterson 12:12**
Let's break this down a bit. In a civilized society, there needs to be a mechanism for resolving disputes, whether they are civil or criminal. Disputes arise, and at some point, they will be resolved. Generally, there are three ways a dispute can be resolved: withdrawal, agreement, or a third party resolution. The third option can be lengthy and costly, leading to distress. Do both of you focus on making this process more efficient, quicker, and less distressing with technology? Is that a correct summary of your focus?
**Prof Tania Sourdin 15:24**
I think that's correct. We're really looking at all those three different ways of finalizing a dispute. I think the statistics of what actually happens in courts are a bit vague, and sometimes courts don't really know themselves. But you're right that at some points, people withdraw. At other times, people simply give up because it's too costly or time-intensive or for some other reason. So what we're interested in is how people seek justice and how they can be triaged effectively, so they can reach an agreement if they wish to. We want to ensure they're not necessarily giving up for financial reasons but making a smart decision with access to advice.
**Chris Patterson 16:15**
Access to justice is critically important. We don't want members of our society resorting to alternative methods due to a lack of access to justice. It's crucial to offer a practical, meaningful path to resolution. In many cases, even if it's not the desired outcome, just having a resolution is enough for individuals to move forward and not let the grievance eat them up.
**Prof Tania Sourdin 17:06**
That's a fair summary. There's also research indicating that prolonged litigation can have negative health effects, such as an increased risk of cancer and mental illness for litigants in civil matters. Prolonged litigation can make you sick, so timely resolution is essential.
**Chris Patterson 17:47**
Indeed, we all desire a swift and inexpensive justice system. However, we must balance efficiency with the need for accurate judgments that won't be overturned on appeal. Is there a potential conflict between speed and accuracy in delivering justice?
**Dr. Bin Li 18:18**
There has been criticism of using technology in the justice system. Some claim that dispute resolution processes, as opposed to litigation, may not deliver justice as well as judgments by judges. However, a prolonged litigation process can have negative effects on clients in various ways. Technology can provide access to legal information and help parties understand their disputes better. This can lead to quicker and more effective dispute resolution without going to court, which can be stressful.
**Chris Patterson 20:16**
Let's delve into technology a bit more and review where we were, where we are, and where we're heading. In the traditional courtroom scenario, we had an adversarial system with lawyers presenting their arguments to judges or juries. The courtroom was largely analog, with someone taking notes. The digital age brought about transcription in court and an increase in paperwork. Then, pre-pandemic, there was a move toward virtual hearings where one or more participants didn't have to be physically present in the courtroom. The pandemic accelerated this shift. Where do you see the future of remote hearings and remote participation in the justice system?
**Prof Tania Sourdin 23:47**
I find what you've outlined really interesting, Chris, regarding the background and the development of trial by trolley. It's worth noting that only about one and a half percent of civil cases in the Supreme Courts in New South Wales and Victoria actually end up in a hearing.
**Chris Patterson 24:11**
What does that statistic tell you, and what's your reaction to it?
**Prof Tania Sourdin 24:18**
I built a web crawler a couple of years ago with a team to find the characteristics of cases that end up in a hearing. Most of them are unusual in that they have characteristics of high behavioral complexity or high task complexity. This is an interesting finding from a tech perspective because using these cases to inform a machine learning model may pose challenges due to the data's variance and inaccuracy. Regarding virtual hearings, they can conflict with the objective of an open and transparent justice system. Sometimes virtual hearings lack transparency. There are audio recordings, and YouTube reporting is not without issues either. It can lead to a sort of celebrity judge phenomenon. Additionally, there's a shift to online courts in the UK, which hasn't been as effective as intended, leading to decreased access to justice. The digital divide still exists, and this must be considered in the context of broader redesign.
**Chris Patterson 27:01**
The digital divide is a significant topic, featured in one of your book chapters. You discuss the digital divide and accessibility, which could be a problem.
**Prof Tania Sourdin 27:21**
Yes, the digital divide is diminishing in some areas. The use of smartphones has increased during the COVID era, and some countries, like China, conduct court hearings entirely on smartphones. However, a digital divide still exists, as not everyone has a reliable internet connection or suitable technology. The situation is improving, but we must consider those who may not have access to the necessary technology.
**Chris Patterson 28:10**
It's an interesting development. The increased use of smartphones during the pandemic has opened up new possibilities for remote participation.
**Dr. Bin Li 29:24**
I find your observations interesting. Regarding criminal cases, some studies suggest that virtual hearings might disadvantage offenders due to a lack of interaction and empathy from judges. However, other studies show judges don't necessarily exhibit bias against offenders in virtual hearings. It's a complex issue. Moving away from online hearings, if we consider the workload of judges, especially in jurisdictions like China, it's quite heavy. Some technologies, like artificial intelligence, can help judges draft judgments and alleviate their workload significantly. So, it's not just about virtual hearings; technology can assist both parties and judges at various levels.
**Chris Patterson 32:00**
Now, I'd like to talk to you both about Justice apps in practice. Your book focuses on this with a chapter on Justice apps and family law. But before we get into that, let's continue discussing the criminal jurisdiction and how technology can address concerns about cost, delay, and access. One major contributor to delay and cost is case management. Lawyers often attend case management conferences in court, resulting in inefficiency. They may wait for hours for a brief appearance, costing clients. Is there a technical solution to make this process more efficient and ensure lawyers' time is used effectively?
**Prof Tania Sourdin 34:58**
Certainly, this is a great example of work that can be conducted online. It's worth considering whether brief online appearances are even necessary or if there are alternative ways to handle them more efficiently. The development may involve a mixed mode, where interlocutory matters are dealt with online, with part of the hearing being virtual and part in person. Decisions should be made based on individual circumstances and context. There are also criminal matters where in-person hearings are essential, as well as concerns about the loss of interpersonal interactions and the challenges of virtual empathy. Triage is crucial, and apps can play a role in this process.
**Chris Patterson 37:37**
You're absolutely right. In cases involving emotional or sensitive matters, like a parent who's lost a child in a drunk driving incident, they may want to confront the offender in person. It's not suitable for a digital platform. Finding the right balance between traditional in-person methods and technology is key.
**Prof Tania Sourdin 38:32**
Finding the right balance is essential. There are circumstances where a human hearing may always be necessary. It depends on the preferences and needs of the victims and the specific context. Triage questions and apps can help ensure the process is as effective as possible.
**Prof Tania Sourdin 43:06**
Well, part of the reason why we wrote the book was because we have done an evaluation of an app that has been developed in Australia. And there are now many, many apps in Australia and elsewhere, which focus on supporting people who have family law disputes. And so it's an area of focus, I think increasingly around the world. And some of the apps are pretty simple. They just help parents work out, for example, how they're going to share care of children and how they timetable matters. But the app that I was looking at, the Adieu app, which I think was really interesting, from an evaluation perspective. What it does is that you do everything basically on your smartphone. And they have, if you like a voice-to-text tool in there, so that when you give information, it's actually used to populate court documents that could be used further down the track. And it sets up a timeframe. And then there's a lot of referral to humans throughout the process as well. And the referral to humans takes place in quite a friendly way. So, depending on your circumstances, you could, for example, be referred out to somebody who's an expert in superannuation, or you could be referred out to a mediator, or if you need to have parental advice about something to do with the children, then you can be referred out. I tried out the app, and I was actually surprised that it worked as well as it did. I was also quite surprised that quite a number of the people who were using the app were older. I thought that it would really only suit people under 40. But in fact, there were quite a lot of people who are older who were using it.
**Chris Patterson 46:28**
That's actually fascinating. And a great example. For the listeners, the app is Adieu, which is spelled as A-D-I-E-U.
**Prof Tania Sourdin 46:50**
Adieu, which is A-D-I-E-U.
Prof Tania Sourdin 48:02
And look, there is. I mean, it's not always a problem. But there is the problem of the self-represented litigant, who can end up taking up a lot of court and judicial time because they're not represented. So it creates this kind of vicious circle in a way where the cost of resolution is being moved onto the court system itself. And there will be incidents where it just would have been cheaper for the community to have made sure that that person had access to a lawyer rather than utilizing what is a finite resource in the court system. But look, just dealing with family law. And if I understand, Tania, and you've been borrowed from this, if you take the classic scenario, and I'll just give it a real simple scenario, so that the listeners are clear on this. And I also want to make sure that I've got this right, because I haven't looked at this yet, but I'm certainly going to look it up. You have a couple. They've been together, let's just say they've been together for seven years. Okay, there's no children. Okay. And in the course of the seven years, they've bought a house together, which has been the family home. It's got a mortgage. There is a bit of equity in it. They've gone and bought all the normal assets that a couple would, you know, they've got their televisions, they've got a car each. They've fitted out their house. And one of them may have been able to divert because they earn a bit more money towards retirement and superannuation, etc. But you know, they've decided that the relationship has run its course and it's time to bring it to an end. And then they've got to divide up their relationship property. So they both go to lawyers, and under the old system, or probably still the most common system, I think you mentioned, each lawyer would ask the prospective clients, one of the partners to this relationship, you know, here's a form I want you to fill out, and I want you to list all the assets and all the liabilities, so that we can work out what the gross and the net value of the relationship property is, and you've got to be entitled to 50% of your relationship property. So both lawyers would go through that process with their clients, they'd exchange that, and hopefully they'd reach an agreement. Then they'd be able to draw up a division. And it may be that one of the partners wants to keep the house and there has to be an equalization payment, all of those things. Am I understanding you correctly that this app helps automate that process somewhat so that both parties can put in their inputs as to what they say the assets and the liabilities are and the corresponding values of those items?
Prof Tania Sourdin 51:08
Yes, that's correct. I think the if you like robot, which is really a chatbot, is called Loony. And that chatbot has the capacity for voice-to-text as well, so that you don't even have to fill out forms necessarily, you might just be able to speak it, which is actually quite useful. And I think the question there, I think, for lawyers is the extent to which there could be unbundled legal advice. So you might not have a lawyer there from the beginning to the end. But you might have a lawyer at those critical points where you need legal advice about, for example, whether the potential agreement is there, and what sort of orders need to be sought from the court and to check over any documentation rather than necessarily having the lawyers right from the beginning. And so there are questions around how legal services will operate within that sort of framework.
Chris Patterson 52:04
The Australian Productivity Commission, I think occasionally they look at the legal profession and justice. Have either of you had any involvement with the commission and some of the work?
Prof Tania Sourdin 52:19
I've had extensive involvement. In 2014, when they did their major review, I think they referred to me quite a lot, because I gave evidence on five separate occasions to the Productivity Commission. And I think they were really looking to see how the justice system could be improved. They noted that many of the courts operating in Australia have what I would call legacy technology systems. They're pretty clunky, and they're quite hard to build on. They're also inwardly focused. So some of the focus for reform into the future is to build case management systems that are much more outwardly focused. The work in the US is often around reforms that make it easier to access information and that the platforms work in a way that is engaging and easy to use. There are questions around interoperability, although the Productivity Commission didn't go quite so far. That's the capacity of systems to talk to one another very easily. So I think these are all important reform measures, but they haven't really, I think, been fully implemented based on the Productivity Commission's report.
Chris Patterson 53:39
Is there a risk here that resources are being put into reinventing the wheel or solving a problem that's already been solved? We're not getting to with us in Australia and New Zealand part of a long and celebrated justice system. There are other members of the Commonwealth, the United Kingdom itself. I think Tony had mentioned some trials or experiments in the UK with closing down small courthouses, etc. It seems to me as is there would be a benefit, and someone, whether it's both of you or other academics, looking at what's happening in other jurisdictions and trying to assess what works and what's good, and advocating for something to be replicated and used here in Australia and New Zealand.
Prof Tania Sourdin 54:39
I think there's definite benefit, and there are I think you're quite correct different approaches around the world. In the UK, they've taken a more radical approach
, which has received some pushback. In Canada, they've established completely online tribunals. The US has a more incremental approach to reform, focusing on changing courts in a more gradual way. Singapore and China are investing heavily in artificial intelligence. Having an overview of these kinds of developments around the world is important for making policy decisions about justice reform.
Chris Patterson 55:47
Yes, that's an interesting point. So, how can the conversation be brought to the forefront? Are there any groups or organizations that are doing this? We're running toward the end of our discussion, and what I'm really trying to find out from this conversation is what can we do? Are there resources and organizations out there advocating for the better utilization of technology in the justice system? Is there a group or organization that you're aware of that is campaigning for this and might be offering suggestions on how the Australian legal fraternity can do this?
Prof Tania Sourdin 56:30
Yes, there are quite a number of groups. The Australian Legal Tech Association is one of them. It has an interesting approach to getting people involved in the legal tech space from different parts of the profession and the tech community. They've been active in terms of working with the courts. The Australian government has its own Justice Digital Transformation Program. There's an interesting connection to technology developed in the Australian Public Service, looking at how to redesign government processes for better efficiency and effectiveness. The chair in Legal Analytics at the University of Newcastle focuses on legal analytics and technology applications in the courts. We're also moving towards e-conveyancing in Australia, which has been an interesting development in terms of its applications. So there are various initiatives promoting justice reform.
Dr. Bin Li 55:58
Yeah, I just wanted to make a quick comment that technology does bring many opportunities to the justice system, but there are also many issues emerging that contradict our traditional perception of justice. As we briefly mentioned in our podcast today, whether AI-assisted decision-making would be a real game-changer, or things like that. So we have to say there must be a fine line to be worked on, or some trade-offs to be made with caution.
Chris Patterson 56:42
Yes, look, if we go back to the family court, this is one area where it's all very well, the family court, handling a resolution to the parties. But if one or both of the parties don't accept that, then you've got this risk of an appeal. And that takes up more time, delays resources, and creates distress. And then you've got the worst scenario, and that is a party or both parties saying, "I'm just not going to comply with it." So we've got the issue of respect for the court system, and in particular, the judges. Is there a real risk? Or is this an issue that if we go too far in some areas worth taking the human element out of it, there will be a reduction in the respect for the office of the court?
Prof Tania Sourdin 57:41
I think, without a doubt, that is an issue. And it's one of the reasons why, if you were looking at categories of cases that might not be appropriate for a fully online treatment, you'd probably exclude a lot of criminal and family cases. I think that very reason. Something happens when there's human interaction. If you're looking at recidivism in the context of criminal cases, for example, then you may want to look at a range of different exchanges that happen when people interact in person in a court arrangement. The same sort of thing, I think, in relation to family court matters. The big issue in relation to many family court matters is that people keep coming back to court because there are orders that are breached or not followed, leading to a kind of systemic abuse issue. It's almost like a tit-for-tat arrangement. It is a complex issue, and we need to consider all these questions when looking at how we make decisions in individual cases. Without that, you need to look at the litigant's preferences. If the litigants both prefer a fully online hearing, or even some form of support, judge AI, or AI to support their decision-making, then I think that makes an enormous difference. It's better to avoid shunting everything into technologies that aren't necessarily appropriate given the conflict.
Chris Patterson 59:18
Look, absolutely. And, of course, we have a long history of the development of natural justice and the role it plays. If I go back to a point that I think, Tania, you might have made before about innovation. I think you said you were talking about policy influencing policymakers, but you see, innovation readiness is part of that or related concept, innovative reluctance. That's the reluctance of someone to consider or adopt innovation.
Prof Tania Sourdin 1:00:00
I think, without a doubt, it's interesting. I call it innovation readiness, sometimes it's innovation reluctance. From our judicial perspective, and I work with judges around the world. I have a big international survey currently underway with judges regarding their views on technology and their views on what has happened as of the COVID period. I think for many judges, it's seen as being a bit too difficult, and not necessarily something they're going to engage with in terms of reform for the future. That's partly due to the demographics of our judges. Some judges are very interested, but others are less so. They prefer the traditional way of operating because that's what they've grown up with and have been in the system for a while. I've noticed a bit of a difference in Europe, where judges are appointed very early in their careers, right from law school. They then go to judicial school and gradually climb the ranks. There may be a greater acceptance of innovation and what technology can bring to a courtroom. There are also issues with lawyers. Over the COVID period, I've heard stories about lawyers having difficulty adapting, not knowing how to use their phones, and having a lot of trouble. I still mediate some matters, and initially, for some of the lawyers, it was difficult for them to understand how to operate in a virtual manner. There is quite a bit of work still needed for judges and lawyers. I say that because I don't think the litigants aren't innovation-ready. Many litigants are quite sophisticated in their understanding of technology.
Chris Patterson 1:01:46
It seems like this is almost a generational issue. The graduate lawyers joining firms have grown up with smartphones, and it's their entire lives. They don't know a world without smartphones. However, these young lawyers aren't the ones setting policy for innovation. Those places tend to be occupied by older generations who might be reluctant and see technology as a threat.
Prof Tania Sourdin 1:02:06
It's true that it's a generational issue. The new generation of lawyers grew up with technology, and it's natural for them. However, the older generations often lament the pace of technological development and might see it as a threat. They tend to occupy positions of policy influence.
Dr. Bin Li 1:03:16
It's not necessarily a bad thing to be very cautious or conservative because there are many issues that we don't have a full understanding of at this stage. We need to do more research, particularly on the potential issues associated with various types of technologies, such as artificial intelligence and algorithms. It should be a gradual process rather than a radical one. Although in some jurisdictions, as mentioned by Tania, some very quick reforms have been made to adopt artificial intelligence.
Chris Patterson 1:03:59
Look, I also think that a problem that we have as a profession is that we've all been through the same training. We all went to law school. And then many of us went into law firms where we were taught by other lawyers. These are issues that go beyond law. When we talk about technology, we're entering areas where lawyers might not have the training or skill set. Perhaps we need to accept that this is an area where we may be weak, and we need to bring in others with the skill set and knowledge to educate and illuminate the capabilities and how they can translate into reducing costs, delays, and improving access to justice.
Dr. Bin Li 1:05:03
That's an interesting observation because it's related to the legal education for future lawyers. Here in Newcastle, we've offered courses in legal design, user testing, and innovation to provide our current students with insights into technological advances and their impact on their future careers and legal reforms. We're still in the early stages when it comes to technology and justice. There is much to learn and think about to better inform our students.
Chris Patterson 1:06:04
I'm delighted to hear that, as I've heard criticisms of law schools not preparing students for modern legal practice and contributing to the development and innovation of the profession. Legal design is an area I've been interested in, particularly in its role in improving access to justice. Is this something Newcastle is exploring too?
Prof Tania Sourdin 1:07:09
Yes, we sent two of our staff to Stanford in 2019 for legal design training. Lisa too, within our law school, has delved into legal design extensively. I prefer to call it human-centered design rather than user-centered design because it focuses on everyone in the community, even those currently outside the court system. This kind of thinking should inform future reforms, considering what the system should be, its underlying values, objectives, and how it works from a human perspective, rather than just making small, piecemeal reforms catering to those entrenched in the system who may not see broader possibilities.
Chris Patterson 1:08:15
Thank you, Tania Sourdin and Dr. Bin Li, for your time on the podcast. We've covered a lot, but it feels like we've only scratched the surface in areas that deserve a deeper dive. I'm confident that listeners will gain valuable insights from this discussion. Thank you both for joining me. It's been a pleasure.
Prof Tania Sourdin 1:08:52
It was a pleasure. Thanks, Chris.
Chris Patterson 1:08:56
Thank you for tuning in to this episode of The Law Down Under podcast. You can join the discussion on my podcast page at patterson.co.nz. That's P-A-T-T-E-R-S-O-N.co.nz. Thanks for supporting the podcast, and stay tuned for more discussions on the law, its application, and the future of the law here down under.