Knight, S., Buckingham Shum, S., Ryan, P., Sándor, Á. & Wang, X. 2017, 'Academic Writing Analytics for Civil Law: Participatory Design Through Academic and Student Engagement', International Journal of Artificial Intelligence in Education.
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Research into the teaching and assessment of student writing shows that many students find academic writing a challenge to learn, with legal writing no exception. Improving the availability and quality of timely formative feedback is an important aim. However, the time-consuming nature of assessing writing makes it impractical for instructors to provide rapid, detailed feedback on hundreds of draft texts which might be improved prior to submission. This paper describes the design of a natural language processing (NLP) tool to provide such support. We report progress in the development of a web application called AWA (Academic Writing Analytics), which has been piloted in a Civil Law degree. We describe: the underlying NLP platform and the participatory design process through which the law academic and analytics team tested and refined an existing rhetorical parser for the discipline; the user interface design and evaluation process; and feedback from students, which was broadly positive, but also identifies important issues to address. We discuss how our approach is positioned in relation to concerns regarding automated essay grading, and ways in which AWA might provide more actionable feedback to students. We conclude by considering how this design process addresses the challenge of making explicit to learners and educators the underlying mode of action in analytic devices such as our rhetorical parser, which we term algorithmic accountability.
Evers, M. & Ryan, P. 2016, 'Exploring eCourt innovations in New South Wales civil courts', Journal of Civil Litigation and Practice, vol. 5, no. 1, pp. 65-76.
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Some New South Wales civil courts have recently introduced electronic filing and online pre-trial appearances. These innovations have different consequences for different users of the civil justice system. Whatever the ostensible benefit, any change to the way our justice system works must enable the purpose for which it exists: access to justice. For practitioners and self-represented litigants who would otherwise travel long distances to attend court, the time and costs savings could be significant. Of course, this intended outcome depends upon the reliability and usability of the technology, as well as the competence of the users. However, for those without these skills or those who do not have access to computers and/or the internet, this change could impede access to justice. It is too early to evaluate the success of this project, but lessons can be drawn from other jurisdictions. This article will explore potential advantages and disadvantages of these changes for self-represented litigants and legal professionals. It will conclude that as technology is disrupting all aspects of our social and commercial arrangements, it is logical that our courts will need to keep up.
Ryan, P.A. 2016, 'Examining breaches of fiduciary duty by solicitors in commercial arrangements', Australian Journal of Corporate Law, vol. 31, pp. 209-230.
This article will identify two key distinctions that need to be made in order to understand the consequences of breach of fiduciary duty by solicitors operating under different circumstances. These distinctions are between (i) solicitors acting as a trustee in relation to an express trust and those assisting their clients with commercial transactions; and (ii) breaches of fiduciary duty by solicitors that involve dishonesty and those that do not. Of particular interest is the different approaches taken in English and Australian courts with respect to the question of causation. This article will focus on breach of custodial fiduciary duties where the solicitor acts on behalf of a client. However, it will also touch on the implications for solicitors who are directors of an incorporated legal practice and whose breach is in the course of his or her duties as a director. It will conclude that while a solicitor's obligation to account follows from a breach of trust, the remedial consequences of a breach of fiduciary duty in commercial relationships demand an inquiry into whether the breach was fraudulent.
Ryan, P.A. & Evers, M. 2016, 'As barristers embrace technology, it is a brave new world for their clerks', Australian Bar Review, vol. 42, pp. 350-358.
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