GAIUS Research Project
Gaius research project at EBS Law School in Wiesbaden – IT-supported communication between legal practitioners and legal authorities
Legal informatics will play a central role in the research programme at the newly established EBS Law School. In terms of a basic discipline of legal theory, "The use of computers in law", will be one major focus of research work. Besides addressing aspects of IT-supported teaching and learning, the programme will carry out application-oriented research. What type of software is needed to best support legal communication, information and decision processes? And what will be the consequences of these new opportunities from an organizational and legal policy perspective? These are the questions the programme will deal with.
Launched in March 2011, the "Gaius" project (named after the Roman legal scholar G., author of the "Institutes") explores how contradictory procedures (civil and administrative processes) can be implemented more efficiently and be better structured than before. A first step will test how and to what extent it may make sense and be feasible to place the collection of material facts – even including evidence – either in part or entirely in the hands of lawyers (and corporate legal departments). Collecting material facts, typically the most difficult part of a legal dispute, could be substantially simplified by the use of appropriate software. Instead of providing the courts with differently structured procedural documents, which the courts then subject to extensive processing using the "Relationstechnik", an electronic document prepared on the basis of the filed claim could essentially be used in a so-called "one text approach". Each party presents the material facts in the same template form as the filed claim.
Leading-edge information technology can also be used to better structure court activity and make it more efficient. Verbal negotiations such as web conferencing, "cloud computing" – there is a broad spectrum of technological solutions that to date have not found their way into the legal world, let alone been properly implemented.
The "one text approach" presupposes a new form of standardization in communication between the parties concerned. This requires a model structure, i.e. a detailed specification of both the communication process and the respective information. On the basis of these details we can look at and decide on an IT-based support solution for specific parts in the communication process. Such basic systems are currently on the market, need however to be adapted and extended to meet the specific requirements of the legal system.
The aim of this practice-driven research is to relieve the burden on the parties involved in the legal dispute. Information technology used for the benefit of all should increase efficiency all round. Increasing efficiency means not only saving time, but also significantly improving results.
At first sight such IT-supported processes may seem useful primarily for those well-known "armadillos" among us. However such processes are not only welcome support in extensive legal disputes, for instance where building law is concerned. The use of information technology in mass issues involving small claims such as unfair dismissals, tenant complaints against rent increases, and simple payment claims can also provide tangible benefits. This is certainly also true for mediation processes.
The advantages of using information technology in the legal system have so far been barely recognized. This is because in order to facilitate the real work of lawyers and judges, systems need to be developed based on a scientific understanding of legal procedures and the daily reality of court cases.
EBS Law School's project partners to date are the Hesse Ministry of Justice, the Hesse Lawyers Association and three qualified IT development companies with practical experience in legal applications (Normfall GmbH, SINC GmbH, Steinbeis-Transferzentrum für Prozesstechnologie TECHNUM). The project will be conducted using not only a legal theory and legal doctrine approach, but also from an empirical perspective based on suitable cases and testing new IT tools.
The effect of these IT tools will be systematically evaluated to gain a deeper understanding of their success factors and to explore the level of satisfaction in using them. Our cooperation partner the ask-Institut in Osnabrück, a company equipped with the relevant experience in legal documentary research, will empirically investigate these issues.
Interested persons, in particular from the legal community and corporate legal departments are warmly invited to take part in the project.
Should the project produce positive findings, it could lead to a legal policy proposal that (from the legal perspective still loosely formulated) for the area of small claims could be worded as follows:
"The Federal Ministry of Justice (BMJ) is authorized by statutory order to predefine electronic templates for common use by the disputing parties and which can be used in the appropriate legal proceedings. Should these "simplified legal proceedings" come before court, the court is required to take a decision within a time stipulated in the statutory order."
Corresponding proposals could also be developed for the other proceedings mentioned above.
Chair of Legal Informatics and Criminal Law
Professor Fritjof Haft
Phone +49 611 7102 2229
Fax +49 611 7102 2229