find the latest legal job
Senior Associate - Litigation & Dispute Resolution
Category: Litigation and Dispute Resolution | Location: Melbourne CBD & Inner Suburbs Melbourne VIC
· Come work for a firm ranked in Lawyers Weekly Top 25 Attraction Firms
View details
Associate - Workplace Relations & Safety
Category: Industrial Relations and Employment Law | Location: Brisbane CBD & Inner Suburbs Brisbane QLD
· Employer of choice · Strong team culture
View details
Freelance Lawyers
Category: Banking and Finance Law | Location: All Perth WA
· Freelance opportunities through Vario from Pinsent Masons
View details
Freelance Lawyers
Category: Other | Location: All Adelaide SA
· • Qualified lawyer with a strong academic background
View details
Freelance Lawyers
Category: Other | Location: All Melbourne VIC
· • Qualified lawyer with a strong academic background
View details
Artificial intelligence poised to close justice gap

Artificial intelligence poised to close justice gap

Bevan Warner

The national legal aid body within Australia is exploring new technology that helps clients solve disputes without the need for a lawyer.

National Legal Aid, in conjunction with RMIT University, has hosted a forum with the creators of a Dutch technology platform that helps clients solve disputes online – a service NLA believes could put legal services in reach of millions of Australians.

The Rechtwijzer technology – which is in use in the UK, Canada and the Netherlands – allows parties to start a resolution process, enter a negotiation, work through areas of dispute and then formulate an agreement.

Bevan Warner from National Legal Aid told Lawyers Weekly the technology, which currently focuses on family law, could minimise the need for unnecessary legal representation on a range of straightforward disputes and claims.

"It gives people the potential to take charge and solve their own disputes, rather than having them dependent on a third-party professional," he said.

"It brings the professionals in as and when needed, and doesn't assume professionals are needed to hold somebody's hand from the beginning to the end."

However, he emphasised the platform would direct parties to seek legal advice – either from a lawyer or a mediator – where they hit upon a complex issue or failed to reach agreement.

Mr Warner believes this type of AI could streamline the involvement of lawyers in disputes, bringing them in where needed rather than on every single claim. 

"It'll just change the way the work is done – it won't eliminate the need for third-party professionals," he said.

More importantly, in his view, the technology would give millions of Australians access to legal services who previously may not have been able to afford representation.

Only 8 per cent of Australians qualify for legal assistance, according to statistics from the NLA. This leaves a large group of people – who Mr Warner called "the missing middle" – that do not qualify for free assistance but cannot afford a lawyer.

In the 2012 Legal Needs Study, which surveyed more than 20,000 Australians, 50 per cent of respondents said they had experienced a legal event in the past year, yet most did not pursue legal action.

"What that told us is that many people with a legal problem won't do anything – they won't see a lawyer, they won't qualify for legal aid and they'll possibly give up their rights altogether, because they're worried about the costs and the complexities of the law," Mr Warner said.

These unaddressed problems then tend to spiral, becoming "bigger, more complex, more costly, more protracted and more stressful", he said.

"We have to do better for the missing middle to make real the practical promise of the law for everyday problems."

At present, NLA is exploring the use of the Rechtwijzer technology, but Mr Warner suggested the organisation was highly interested in its application.

"We're not poised to introduce it at the moment, but we certainly have strong drivers as to why we should be moving in this direction," he said.

Rechtwijzer was formulated by the Hague Institute for Innovation of Law, in conjunction with the developers of eBay’s dispute resolution system, which handles 60 million disagreements a year.

The system uses AI and machine learning to allow the platform to learn from data and make predictions based on that learning.

Like this story? Read more:

QLS condemns actions of disgraced lawyer as ‘stain on the profession’

NSW proposes big justice reforms to target risk of reoffending

The legal budget breakdown 2017

Artificial intelligence poised to close justice gap
lawyersweekly logo
Promoted content
Recommended by Spike Native Network
more from lawyers weekly
Scales of Justice, ALA, right-to-die law
Oct 24 2017
‘Right-to-die’ laws would be a relief for terminally ill: ALA
The passage of an assisted dying bill through the lower house of Victorian Parliament has been haile...
Oct 24 2017
Diversity top of agenda for future WA Law Society president
The advancement of diversity in the Western Australian legal profession will be one of the key items...
Oct 23 2017
How to fail well
The legal profession is due for an attitude adjustment when it comes to perceived failures, accordin...
Allens managing partner Richard Spurio, image courtesy Allens' website
Jun 21 2017
Promo season at Allens
A group of lawyers at Allens have received promotions across its PNG and Australian offices. ...
May 11 2017
Partner exits for in-house role
A Victorian lawyer has left the partnership of a national firm to start a new gig with state governm...
Esteban Gomez
May 11 2017
National firm recruits ‘major asset’
A national law firm has announced it has appointed a new corporate partner who brings over 15 years'...
Nicole Rich
May 16 2017
Access to justice for young transgender Australians
Reform is looming for the process that young transgender Australians and their families must current...
Geoff Roberson
May 11 2017
The lighter side of the law: when law and comedy collide
On the face of it, there doesn’t seem to be much that is amusing about the law, writes Geoff Rober...
May 10 2017
Advocate’s immunity – without fear or without favour but not both
On 29 March 2017, the High Court handed down its decision in David Kendirjian v Eugene Lepore & ...