That was the Month that Was: August 2019

This is the first of three pilot posts which will summarise developments in the past month. The intention is to provide:

  1. indications of the main announcements, events and articles in the month;
  2. links to primary sources for those who wish to follow them up; and
  3. a summary which is readable in itself.

Google Analytics will remorselessly reveal the extent to which readers find this helpful. If it seems popular then it can be continued.

August is usually a quiet holiday month in the northern hemisphere but actually this year there seemed a lot of activity around the globe.

1 August

The first of the articles on AI (from the Thomson Reuters blog) that are a bit of theme in the month, the merit of which is its attempts to identify the core tasks that it can perform that are relevant to law: Pattern Recognition, Prediction, Performing routine tasks and reasoning.

4 August 

Australian Andrea Perry Peterson publishes a podcast interview with Miguel Willis, the charismatic founder of the ATJ tech fellows programme in the US.

5 August

Article by Jonah Wu, a student at Stanford, on use of AI in civil courts. Provides a good overview on where we are and what might be the potential. Suggests the following functions are being developed and demonstrates with references to Australia, the US, the Netherlands, China and elsewhere.

1. Predicting settlement arrangements, judicial decisions, and other outcomes of claims

2. Detecting abuse and fraud against people the court oversees

3. Preventative Diagnosis of legal issues, matching to services, and automating relief

4. Analyzing quality of claims and citations

5. Active, intelligent case management

6. Online dispute resolution platforms and automated decision-making.

If you have time only to read one piece this month, you should consider this. It is clear, analytical and well researched. Watch this guy: he could go far.


7 August

Publication of the 2019 Aderant Business of Law and Legal Technology summarised at

8 August

UK National Health Service announces establishment of Artificial Intelligence Lab, focused on health but no doubt with indirect relevance to law. And a reminder from Australia that all technology is not healthy. HealthEngine, a patient booking app, to face major fines for flogging off patient data.

9 August

Coverage in The Atlantic of the role that US libraries play in closing the digital skills gap – something for the UK to remember?

10 August

ABA publishes first profile of the US legal profession, including its use of legal tech – covered at

12 August

Turning back time, the US Navy is to replace fancy touchscreens on ships: ‘Sailors “overwhelmingly” preferred to control ships with wheels and throttles, surveys of crew found.’ Interestingly, US aircraft carriers already have a low tech model of their flight deck, known as the ouija board, which duplicates in physical form all the information stored on the highly sophisticated technical equipment: ‘To represent crucial data on each airplane, such as its armament, maintenance needs, and mission status, “we use low-tech gadgets like thumbtacks, nuts and bolts, wing nuts, and washers.”’

Margaret Hagan of Stanford, always good value, reflects on the role of design in government.

13 August

More from Margaret Hagan as she agrees with Australia’s Dr Genevieve Grant that ‘We can be doing more outcome, process, and ethical evaluation’ of legal design.

15 August

Canadian Forum on Civil Justice publishes report looking at evidence-based evaluations of legal service interventions, funded by the Legal Foundation of Ontario.

20 August

US legal techies flock to Disneyland for ILTACON 2019 where, according to Bloomberg’s  Sam Skolnik, the main themes were AI and hype: “Lots of vendors want to talk about how cool their tech is—don’t let them,” said legal industry consultant Brad Blickstein, co-author with Erin Harrison of an upcoming report that weighs the effectiveness of roughly 50 of the top legal tech products. Instead, he urged firms to be diligent, if not downright skeptical, when purchasing AI-infused tools.’ The excellent and omni-present Bob Ambrogi gave his assessment a couple of days later. Prism Legal followed with its view. There were doubtless others: no one seemed much concerned with access to justice.

Australian JusticeConnect announces upgrade of its self-help resources, very nicely designed and with good use of colour.

22 August

A rather chillin article by Josh Blandi of Unicourt on Richard Tromans’ excellent Artificial Lawyer blog: ‘Court Data is Rocket Fuel for Investment Firms’. Investors can make a killing by getting access to court data on litigation, provided in it is ‘normalised’ ie individualised: ‘The use of court data to enhance financial decision making isn’t just an aspirational goal. It’s already happening, and it’s only a matter of time before leveraging court data becomes industry standard for investment firms and hedge funds. The technology is widely available, it’s unquestionably affordable in comparison to colossal savings and gains, and helps firms keep their fingers on the pulse of what’s happening in the industry.’

23 August

The US Legal School Admission Council announces the results of its inaugural innovation challenge. ‘Pocket VAWA Self-Petitions, a project by Columbia Law School student Emilie Schwarz, received the honor, along with $15,000 and mentorship to help Schwarz refine the project and further develop the solution. Using the online tool, immigrant domestic violence survivors can access justice through legal information, checklists, and pre-screening for VAWA self-petitions and U visas … In second place, and receiving a $10,000 prize, was My Legal Needs, a web-based app that helps LGBT and non-binary people identify their medical and legal needs, by Anna L. Stone of Georgetown University Law Center. Third place and a $5,000 prize went to Cyber Civil Rights Resource Guide, an accessible resource guide for victims of online abuse, by Talia Boiangin of the University of Miami School of Law.’ They all used Neota Logic: ‘The three winners did not list any traditional tech skills in their biographies for the event and were able to build their winning solutions in Neota’s no-code AI automation platform’, said Neota.

And, finally, posts for the month:

Picture from Pixabay.

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