The digital revolution is a ubiquitous phenomenon which shapes how people interact and cooperate with one another – all over the world and in all corners of society. The newest phase of the digital revolution shows us that the workings of society are not only being supported on an instrumental level, but that they are rather being transformed on a deeply structural level. Industry is being revolutionized by 3D printing, which permits the instant creation of three-dimensional objects, boosting innovation in terms of rapid prototyping and product development. Drones, for example, modify transportation but also military operations. Automatically controlled cars are another fundamental development in transportation that is on the horizon. Medicine has already changed radically due to digital methods of diagnosis and therapy. The opportunities that come along with the digital revolution are evident and overwhelming.
Law and Jurisprudence as the Cinderella of the Digital Revolution
Interestingly, the sphere of law and jurisprudence has been rather skeptical of the digital revolution. While legal science has established legal informatics as a field of research and even if there have been attempts to undertake projects in legal science by employing the means of informatics, the digital revolution has had very little impact on legislation, jurisprudence and contract design. Digital applications only serve as helpful instruments – legal search engines being the most obvious example –, not as transformative agents.
The Potential of Undetected Synergies
The resistance to digital transformation which is visible in the sphere of law seems contra-intuitive with regards to several aspects. When approached without bias, the tools of informatics seem to be highly suited to dealing with issues that arise in the course of legal affairs: The legal system consists of and is confronted with large bodies of complex data that follow rational and objective principles (at least in an ideal world). As far as the legal system itself is concerned, one cannot help the impression that there is a hopeless amount of overregulation; a lot of times, an excessive number of legal norms seem to do nothing but create redundancies and inefficacies. Informatics, on the other hand, is a science that promises to help solve this problem as it has brought about new insights on how to effectively organize und use complex data. Algorithms with excellent precision can perform tasks that involve a lot of data without much effort; in former times, comparable tasks could only be fulfilled by employing knowledgeable people for a long time.
There is no question that the findings of informatics can only be transferred to the sphere of law if the special requirements of legal methodology are taken into account. However, there is also no question that the law stands to reap great profit by being more open to the findings of modern informatics. The widespread skepticism that is prevalent when the use of processes developed by informatics is concerned has to be put into context: If it is possible to transform industry by using 3D printers, to operate drones without a pilot, to put self-steering cars on the road and to use computer-aided tools in performing surgery, it should surely be possible to find productive synergies between law and informatics.
Lexalyze – Interdisciplinary Development of Synergies Between Law and Informatics
The research program Lexalyze focuses on the development of synergies between legal science and informatics. Addressing all areas of law – legislation, jurisprudence and contract design –, the aim is to align and prepare the most recent insights in both disciplines in order to enable a successful transfer of knowledge. Our starting point will consist of our establishing the current state of research as far as “legal informatics” – the branch of legal science looking into interdisciplinary questions of informatics – and the informatics looking into legal data are concerned.
The new and special approach that Lexalyze seeks to implement is that of a bi-directional interdisciplinary knowledge transfer. Whereas former projects have merely been uni-directional efforts of legal scientists with an interest in informatics or vice versa, we now aim to establish a fundamental discourse between legal scientists from the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität (LMU) and information scientists from the Technische Universität München (TUM), all of whom are at the forefront of the methodological discourse in their respective field of expertise. This interdisciplinary discourse will be accompanied and furthered by cooperating scientists from other institutions as well as by several partners in different practice areas of law and informatics.
The first goal is to develop a common language that is compatible with both fields of research. The second step will be to establish central goals and motives, which shall in turn serve to develop new methods for solving law-related problems. Ideally, we should be able to establish new ways of improving quality and efficiency in legislation, jurisprudence and contract design. Should we, however, encounter structural boundaries to developing such methods, we aim to demonstrate and define these boundaries as precisely as possible.