Law Times – New institute hopes to spur innovation by enhancing data accessibility

Sep 29, 2020 | Press

Venerable Canadian legal market periodical and e-newsletter, Law Times reports on the LIDI launch:

Law Times reporter Aidan Macnab writes:

“Sept. 21 marked the launch of the Legal Innovation Data institute, a first-of-its kind non-profit aimed at increasing the accessibility of legal data so it can be used to build new legal tools, increase access to justice and enhance personal privacy.

. . . .

Lachance says he has wanted to pursue an open-data project such as LIDI “for years.”

“I was of the view that we shouldn’t limit innovation to the people who currently have access to the data, that the more hands that bulk data could be in, the more opportunity for innovation,” says Lachance, who was formerly the president and CEO of CanLII and general manager for North America of the global legal publisher vLex.

“It’s like the equivalent of paving the road, so that other people can build on it,” says Lachance. “The legal Innovation data Institute is not the one that’s going to build the apps. But we’re going to make it possible for others to build apps, services, to develop new insights into the evolution of case law.”

. . . .

Law Times’ coverage includes commentary from LIDI research partners:

“Access to LIDI’s data will help remedy the problem that traditional legal research methods are not scalable, says Wolfgang Alschner, an associate professor at the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Law. No lawyer can consume every decision ever rendered by the Supreme Court of Canada, for example, and these limitations prevent lawyers from making truly evidence-based decisions, he says.

“We might pick a small sample of decisions in order to say something about jurisprudential trends at large, or we might look at a couple of decisions by a certain judge in order to predict our chances of being successful in future litigations,” Alschner says.

“Now, once you can scale-up legal analysis, you can make evidence based decisions on a much broader information basis, so you can make more accurate decisions, you can anchor your decisions in empirics, and therefore, make better decisions.”

“It is access to the data, not the technology, which holds back the scalability of legal data analysis, says Alschner. Algorithms are cheap and abundant, whereas legal data is neither cheap, nor easy to obtain.

“Because access to legal data was not abundant, the legal analytics ecosystem in Canada was basically non-existent,” Alschner says. “And it was very difficult for researchers, but also for startups to do this type of large-scale, evidence-based text mining.”

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