International Writing Competition 2018: Guidance & Inspiration
Posted by david-hand | 25 September 2017
We are pleased to announce the launch of the first ever Law & Technology International Writing Competition, which has a grand prize of £2,000.
You are invited to write a 1,000 word blog-style article on the following topics: Legal technology & the future of legal practice, how the law copes with technological innovations, and the mass impact of technology allowing access to legal information.
Below, we have put together a short summary of each topic area, guiding questions for each of them, and some useful links to get you thinking.
Legal technology & the future of legal practice
In 2016 it was estimated that the spending on legal technology was approximately $3bn. It is a field which is growing at speed, and will increasingly come to change aspects of legal practice. Some of the areas of legal technology are now well established, such as those of document automation or legal research. Alongside this, there are emerging areas of exploration and growth, such as the range of legal tasks that artificial intelligence (AI) may be able to assist with, or even one day perform, and services which assist individuals and businesses in compiling certain legal documents, removing the need to use a law firm altogether. While it is safe to assume that legal technology is here to stay, it is harder to predict exactly how it might continue to transform certain tasks within a law firm and what the role of legal practitioners, and particularly trainees, might be in the future.
- What are the possibilities and limitations of AI in the legal sector?
- How might legal technologies be relevant to the general public, and remove the need to engage with law firms?
- Will legal technology continue to be adopted, or are there limits to its uptake?
How the law copes with technological innovations
In 1965, Intel co-founder Gordon Moore made the prediction that the number of transistors that can fit on a silicon chip would double every two years, and now some 52 years later Moore’s law still holds true. As computational power has increased, the technologies that make use of it have also got smaller and more affordable. Developments such as personal computers, laptops & tablets, the wide availability of the internet, and smart phones are obvious examples of the way everyday life has been shaped by these two things. Innovations that take advantage of these increasingly powerful devices have increased alongside their availability, as has the question of regulating these innovations.
“AI is a rare case where we need to be proactive in regulation instead of reactive because if we’re reactive in AI regulation it’s too late. Normally the way regulations are set up is a whole bunch of bad things happen, there’s a public outcry and then after many years the regulatory agencies set up to regulate that industry. That in the past has been bad but not something that represented a fundamental risk to the existence of civilisation.” Elon Musk, July 2017
This question of regulation is one that can either relate to the technologies themselves, such as recent examples like Uber or Bitcoin, or can be raised in relation to how people come to use things, such as the downloading of music and films for free or planning illegal activities privately on secure messaging services. It is not rare that these attempts at regulation also raise questions of interfering in markets or infringing on personal freedoms and so their intended benefit is not always clear cut.
- Does the law do enough to keep up with technological innovations? Should it?
- Should the person or company behind an innovation be responsible for policing how people use it?
- Would a proactive approach to regulation stifle the development of future innovations?
The mass impact of technology for providing new and easy access to legal information
With an increasing amount of information available on the internet, access to information about the law and the legal system has become more readily accessible to an increasing amount of people. From Wikipedia articles with information on certain specific cases through to the way the media reports high profile cases, the general public has greater access to a level of understanding of the workings of the legal system than ever before. Beyond this, services like Justia.com give an overview of US law aimed at a non-expert audience, providing a basic understanding of areas of legal practice, as well as offering access to a number of cases heard in US courts. While this access to information undoubtedly has positive elements, the incomplete nature of these sources is not always obvious to the non-expert reader.
- Do the media report on legal cases in a fair, balanced and complete way?
- Is the general public having more access to legal information useful, even it is incomplete?
- What risks are there to law firms as more legal information becomes widely available for free online?
AI Is Doing Legal Work. But It Won’t Replace Lawyers, Yet.
The importance of technology: why firms who won’t invest are missing out.
Ready for robot lawyers? How students can prepare for the future of law.
Laws and Ethics Can’t Keep Pace with technology
The law can’t keep up with technology… And that’s a very good thing.
UK government can force encryption removal, but fears losing, experts say.
Juror Gets 30 Days, Fine for Online Research.
How prejudicial reporting has led to collapsed trials.
Two Rules For Representing Yourself In Legal Proceedings.
Hopefully these descriptions of the topic areas, the guiding questions, and the links to other relevant material provide you with some inspiration in coming up with your own ideas to start writing your entry to the Law & Technology International Writing Competition. Please remember to get your entries in before the closing date of December 1st, 2017.
The law serves many purposes and functions in society. Four principal purposes and functions are establishing standards, maintaining order, resolving disputes, and protecting liberties and rights.
3.1 Establishing Standards
The law is a guidepost for minimally acceptable behavior in society. Some activities, for instance, are crimes because society (through a legislative body) has determined that it will not tolerate certain behaviors that injure or damage persons or their property. For example, under a typical state law, it is a crime to cause physical injury to another person without justification—doing so generally constitutes the crime of assault.
3.2 Maintaining Order
This is an offshoot of establishing standards. Some semblance of order is necessary in a civil society and is therefore reflected in the law. The law—when enforced—provides order consistent with society’s guidelines.
3.3 Resolving Disputes
Disputes are unavoidable in a society made of persons with different needs, wants, values, and views. The law provides a formal means for resolving disputes—the court system. There is a federal court system and each state has its own separate court system. There are also various less formal means for resolving disputes—collectively called alternative dispute resolution (ADR). We will learn about the federal and state court systems in chapters 6 and 7, respectively, and about ADR in chapter 9.
3.4 Protecting Liberties and Rights
The constitutions and statutes of the United States and its constituent states (see chapter 5) provide for various liberties and rights. A purpose and function of the law is to protect these various liberties and rights from violations or unreasonable intrusions by persons, organizations, or government. For example, subject to certain exceptions, the First Amendment to the Constitution prohibits the government from making a law that prohibits the freedom of speech. Someone who believes that his free speech rights have been prohibited by the government may pursue a remedy by bringing a case in the courts.
You have probably realized that laws may serve more than one principal function and there are obviously more principal functions than the four that we have identified.