University of California, Berkeley
About legal informatics

The contact between computer science and the law can be symbolically placed in 1949 when Lee Loevinger, in his essay «Jurimetrics. The Next Step Forward» [Minnesota Law Review, 33, 1949]  introduced into the legal vocabulary the term Jurimetrics. "It signifies the scientific investigation of legal problem" in particular it refers to that discipline destined to deal with the problems relating to the relationship between law and new technologies. After that, in 1963, the jurist Hans Wolfgang Baade used, for the first time, the word Jurimetrics to describe the application of the informatics to the law. He was also the first one to give a systematic order to the discipline, characterizing three fundamental fields:

-          electronic data storage and retrieval;

-          behavioral analysis;

-          the use of sybolic logic.

From that first definition, descends the expression, usually now accepted, of legal informatics (usually in United States the field of legal informatics is also called Legal information technology). We must ready put in evidence there is a difference from computer law and legal informatics: in fact while the first concern the problems relating to the social implications of informatics use, the second, is about all the applications of informatics in the field of law, such as the storage and the automatic retrieval of sources of law, the automation in law offices and judicial administration and all the other use of the computers in law (data bases; information systems; educational programs; expert systems, computer-aided legal drafting). In detail, the research fields of this branch of the law can be arranged in conformity with a filing approved upon by most scholars:

Managerial legal informatics è software tools for managing legal and administrative procedures, computer use in the legal professions, automation in the judicial procedures, drafting of legislative texts.

Documentary legal informatics è information retrieval and legal document databases. The information retrieval area comprises the design and development of technologies for text indexing, classification and summarization, information extraction, legal thesauri and retrieval models.

Decisional legal informatics è legal expert systems, decision-aiding software and legal advising software. (The result of computer-aided judicial analysis – especially studied in the common law countries – is to facilitate the prediction of how cases are likely to be decided. It can do so by listing past cases, by listing predictive criteria in the columns, and in general by showing for each factual element the estimated probability of winning a case).

In short, the main focus of the legal informatics is in the following areas:

  • Use of computers in law (data bases; information systems; educational programs; expert systems): legal automatic documentation
  • Intelligent data banks
  • Intelligent legal information systems
  • Computer-aided legal drafting
  • Data base management system
  • Expert systems
  • Knowledge based systems

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