Open legal data is the fuel for transformative legal innovation in the legal profession and is the catalyst needed to shine a light on problems in the legal system to make access to justice a reality. UniCourt is a staunch advocate for open legal data, and we are pleased to share our CEO, Josh Blandi’s latest article on this topic that was recently published in Attorney at Work.
Josh’s article, Why Does Open Data Matter and How Can It Increase Access to Justice?, is the first in a three part series, where he discusses the importance of open data for the legal profession and the public, the pending question before the Supreme Court of the United States relating to open data, and the practical application of open data in furthering access to justice and improving the lives of practicing attorneys.
Here below is an excerpt from the introduction of Josh’s article:
Much of the content that makes our justice system run – court cases, legislative materials, administrative summaries – is actually public information. The fundamental purpose of this information (or in the modern parlance, data) is to educate the public and ensure the fair and transparent administration of justice. New technology is making it easier and less expensive for everyone to access this information, but that doesn’t mean everything is copacetic.
This article is the first in a series of three discussing the what, how, and why of open legal data.
In this article we’ll talk a bit more about what this information is and why it’s important generally. Then we’ll talk about how courts are wrestling with these new questions, including a discussion on how these issues have ended up at the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS). Finally, we’ll talk about how all this applies to you, the practicing attorney.
Why does this matter?
Historically, it was very expensive to produce and disseminate this legal information (for our purposes, we will call it “legal data”) and access to it has been limited only to those who could physically go to the source, such as a courthouse, those who could afford expensive law books (back in the day), or to those who could pay a hefty fee to one of the few legal research providers in the market.
There have been several advances in technology that make it much easier and less expensive for lawyers and the general public alike to access legal data. First, and most obvious is the internet. While internet-educated clients may often be the butt of the jokes lawyers tell each other, legal information – often provided or even explained by an attorney – is at consumers’ fingertips like never before.
Additionally, with the rise of both cloud computing and increases in computing power, increasingly “intelligent” algorithms are able to consume and analyze this information in radically new ways. Though we’re probably a long way from robot lawyers, complex data analysis and machine learning can provide powerful and informative insights directly to consumers in fairly compelling ways. Unsurprisingly, these advances in technology are creating novel questions of law.
Therefore, it should come as no surprise, then, that SCOTUS is teed up to answer questions central to this very issue in the upcoming term.
You can read the full article here on Attorney at Work.