Dr. Roland Vogl is a pioneer within the legal informatics space. Dr. Vogl is currently Executive Director of CodeX – the Stanford Center for Legal Informatics and a Lecturer in Law at Stanford Law School. Dr. Vogl also was named to the American Bar Association 2017 Class of Legal Rebels, a highly-regarded group of legal innovators and he was previously selected as one of the 2016 Fastcase 50. Dr. Vogl also serves on the advisory boards of LexCheck, IPNexus and LegalForce.
For those unfamiliar with the field, what is legal informatics and why should lawyers know about it?
The management of information is crucial to the proper functioning of any legal system. A good legal system relies on information about the world itself (such as evidence of who did what and when) as well as more purely legal information (such as court rulings, statutes, contracts, and so forth). Legal Informatics is the theory and practice of managing such information. It covers both legal theory and information theory. It also covers elements of general information processing technology as well as applications of that technology in the administration of law. While the concept of Legal Informatics is not new, its importance is greater than ever due to recent technological advances – including progress on mechanized legal information processing, the growth of the Internet, and the proliferation of autonomous systems (such as self-driving cars and robots), as well as globalization of the legal industry. The upshot of these advances is the emergence of practical legal technology that is qualitatively superior to what has gone before. This technology is capable of dramatically changing the legal profession, improving the quality and efficiency of legal services and disrupting the way law firms do business. The technology is also capable of popularizing the law – bringing legal understanding and legal tools to everyone in society, not just legal professionals. CodeX – The Stanford Center for Legal Informatics focuses its work on the field of Computational Law, the branch of Legal Informatics concerned with the mechanization of legal analysis.
What first prompted your interest in legal technology? How would you define legal technology as a field?
The legal industry is facing unique challenges and opportunities in light of the tech-driven transformation of our legal system. I am very interested learning about and contributing to the innovative new approaches seeking to address these challenges.
A lot has been said about AI and how it relates to the practice of law. How would describe the reality of AI in law practice and what is just marketing hype/ a myth?
There has been much media coverage about the supposedly pending disruption of the legal market by start-ups that use AI technologies to do legal things. There is currently little evidence of an AI-driven disruption of the legal services market. Most legal AI technologies in use today are used as lawyer-enhancing rather than lawyer-replacing technologies. But in my mind, it is clear that many of the legal technologies that are coming to the market right now, will dramatically change the way legal services are delivered to clients. This trend will only be more accelerated in the future.
How would you describe the connection between legal technology and legal innovation?
There are many different definitions of the term “innovation”. From my perspective innovation is characterized by the desire to challenge the status quo. It is a cognitive process that can be applied to various situations. The ability to see a problem from a different angle enables us to find different approaches and processes for professional and personal challenges.
Technology is generally understood as collection of techniques, methods and processes in the production of good and services, or to accomplish certain goals.
What’s your view of the current state of legal education? What in your view are law schools getting right and getting wrong?
More than 5 years ago, the ABA Task Force on the Future of Legal Education issued its report concluding a multi-year study of the state of legal education. The report found that the economy of law and related services and the associated employment market have changed sharply and that the profession is also experiencing a shift in demand from bespoke representation of clients to the commoditization of legal services (e.g., Legal Zoom). The Report recommended – among other things – that Law Schools foster curriculum experimentation, to focus on the competencies and professionalism required of people who will deliver services to clients in this changed market place.
I think most law schools are doing a fine job teaching legal doctrine and theory. Some law schools have started to experiment with innovative courses that reflect the changing needs of market place. In my opinion, in the future great law schools will increasingly be defined by their ability to equip students with the research and technology skills to thrive in a technologically sophisticated legal marketplace. By the same token, they will continue to be defined by their ability to produce research that can solve important issues facing society. The technology curriculums of these law schools will be defined by how well they foster innovation within the context of these two missions. A current trend of particular relevance involves the use of data science techniques to uncover new patterns in legal information that legal professionals as well as lay people can use to make decisions. In my opinion, this will become common practice, and great law schools will have fully embraced data analytics as an integral part of their core research agendas and teaching curriculums. Beyond data analytics, great law schools will teach technological competence to all students in all legal subject areas, and they will provide for resources, programs, and clinics that allow entrepreneurial-minded students with new ideas to experiment and create new solutions to legal problems.
Increasingly, technology will be used to deliver legal information and legal solutions to people who have, historically, had the most difficulty access them. There will be more and more efforts to streamline, expand, and improve legal analysis and the delivery of legal services through computational methods (computational law). In the future, great law schools will be defined by their ability to foster cutting-edge research and teaching that will promote and enhance these computational law systems. Great law schools will not be wedded to traditional delivery mechanism. Rather they will be a testing and proving ground for new delivery mechanisms that simultaneously teach their students how to package legal solutions in new and innovative ways.