That was the Month that Was: September 2019

It was difficult for a Brit to sift through social media expeditiously this month and to report solely on developments, writing and thinking in relation to technology and access to justice. Brexit kept intervening. However, here is the result – the second of three pilot pieces to test the value of this sort of summary.

1 September

An interesting article in Forbes magazine by Amir Husain on five predictions for the future of AI which suggest the it might outgrow its current limitations. His Big Five are:  (1) AI Will Move Beyond Deep Learning; (2) Intelligence Will Be Pushed Out To The Edge; (3) Algorithms Will Learn To Reason Causally (this seems to me the most interesting in terms of developing the use of algorithms in a criminal justice setting and would see AI moving away from explanations via correlation to ones that can be discussed in terms of cause); (4) Explainability Will Become A Hard Requirement (very relevant in justice); (5) AI Will Progress From Perception To Action (potentially spooky as we move through self-driving vehicles to autonomous weapons).

2 September

Article in the Wall Street Journal: ’Why We should Teach Kids to Call the Robot “It”’. Sometimes caught behind its paywall but explained pretty well by the title.

3 September

Business Insider reports: ‘For China, one of its most significant advantages – outside of its disregard for privacy concerns and civil liberties that allow it to gather data and develop capabilities faster – is the fusion of military aims with civilian commercial industry. In contrast, leading US tech companies like Google are not working with the US military on AI.’ “‘If we do not find a way to strengthen the bonds between the United States government and industry and academia, then I would say we do have the real risk of not moving as fast as China when it comes to’ artificial intelligence, Lt. Gen. Jack Shanahan, director of the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, explained to reporters’.”

4 September

Canadian legal software firm Clio gets £250m venture capital investment. This is discussed at

Clio publishes interesting blog on 62 Key Performance Indicators that law firms should measure. Government bodies, like courts, might beneficially work out some equivalent.

5 September

Facebook confirms public exposure of 419m private telephone numbers.

8 September

UK Public Law Project publishes Quick and Uneasy Justice on the algorithmic approach to determinations under the EU settlement scheme. This is discussed at

9 September

More on AI in Australian article on gender bias: ‘Artificial intelligence, far from being a rarefied utopian intervention, may turn out to be no more than the sum of its very human parts — most of them male.’

Daily Telegraph reports that UK artificial intelligence companies have received $1bn or £803m investment in the first six months of the year.

A New Zealand pean of praise from Jane Adams and Bridgette Toy-Cronin for physical courthouses of the kind being flogged off in England and Wales.

11 September

LexisNexis announces next round of Tech Accelerator beneficiaries: written up at

12 September

Latest participation satisfaction figures from the British Columbian Civil Resolution Tribunal – satisfactorily high.

Article in Wired on how AI can’t read, just correlate which takes you back to the Forbes article in terms of how this might change.

7-13 September

An apparently successful (and free) Legal ‘Design Summit and Brainfactory’ is held in Helsinki attracting a lot of positive comment from participants who clearly enjoyed it immensely eg

14 September

Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service plans another 77 court closures over seven years to keep the funding coming in for its digital programme. That is on top of the existing 127. The source is a National Audit Office report written up at

16 September

Joshua Browder, of Do Not Pay fame, launches UK app that automatically cancels free subscriptions when their trial period expires.

17 September

Pew Charitable Trusts issues Request for Proposals to evaluate the Legal Services Corporation’s Legal Navigator project. Return date 21 October. 

20 September

Clio publishes its latest legal trends report of which you can download a free copy.

21 September

Frederick Wilmot-Smith publishes in the London Review of Books a coruscating account of the HMCTS  court digitalisation project which includes his attempt actually to use the new online system for a small claim. This is must-read by any officials inclined to follow our lead. His conclusion, having followed the online process through to a physical court hearing with a real judge: ‘I left court disappointed but not bitter. But I had also demonstrated, unwittingly, Briggs’s [Lord Briggs, originator of the proposals] point that his reforms will fail to unlock access to justice for ordinary citizens if technology doesn’t help them compile their claims. I am a lawyer – albeit, on this showing, not a very good one. What hope is there for those without legal training?’ HIs essential point is support for the argument that this is an austerity project masquerading as an access one.

28 September

An excellent New Zealand article from Duncan Grieve in the category of gilt coming off the technology gingerbread: ‘The extraordinary and appalling true story of the rise of Uber’. Wework subsequently withdrew its attempt to raise money through an IPO for its technology-assisted,  loss-making business.


Image by Susanne Jutzeler, suju-foto from Pixabay

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