Everything the Internet Knows About Legal Engineering – A Bibliography So Far

There isn’t much written about legal engineering yet. The following is what the internet has said so far with my thoughts sprinkled into it.

They say it started with Richard Susskind’s use of the term “legal knowledge engineer” in 2010’s The End of Lawyers, which I was careful not to read considering I had just graduated from law school! Amazon

Monax says that legal engineering is a “combination of legal design and software engineering.” Part of the role is focused on automating rights and obligations into smart contracts and other automated systems. “Drafting the rules of commercial interactions is traditionally the job of a lawyer. In a data-driven ecosystem, it’s the job of legal engineers.” (Emphasis added.)

I particularly like that last line, and I really only have two critiques of the write up. First, I feel like “legal design” may not be very actionable for those wanting to enter the field. And second, it seems to me that legal engineers are needed in more than commercial settings.

Wavelength defines a legal engineer as “a person that sits at the interface of technology, law and data, and who is trained and skilled in the construction of designed legal solutions.” Drew Winlaw later argues there are many different types of legal engineers but if you have a combination of legal training, empathy, impatience with the status quo, bravery to experiment, imagination about technology’s application, and pragmatism then you may have the skills you need to be a legal engineer.

Stuart Barr, following Susskind’s lead, focuses on the legal engineer role within law firms (I tend to focus on the role in any software engineering environment). He says that a legal engineer could come from either a legal or tech background but a legal engineer must “have a deep understanding of both technology and legal practice and an appetite to drive innovation, efficiency, process improvement and client engagement.”

Perhaps most impactful, he hammers on the idea that “technology itself is not the differentiator. It’s about how you apply it. That’s why legal engineers are so important. They have the creativity to come up with technological solutions to very specific problems, and this is where the competitive advantage comes in.” (Emphasis added – emphatically.)

Jake Goldenfein and Andrea Leiter focus the legal engineer role on the evolving field of blockchain engineering and smart contract programming. They draw an interesting relationship between from modern day automated smart contracts to medieval writ system. They seemingly suggest and the legal engineer might be one who translates the facts of a dispute or contract into the correct form of writ, or smart contract. It’s interesting, but I don’t think it’s actually workable in practice.

The IAPP has a number of unique perspectives given that privacy lawyers and privacy engineers also work at the intersection of law and technology. Here is one such article.

I probably missed something. Let me know! michael@michaelricelaw.com

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