Tutorials. Exams. Internships. With all the pressures of law school, it can be difficult for students to find time for other endeavours.
Yet Jacinta MacGinley and Aamina Sultanbawa, both Bachelor of International Relations/Laws (Hons) students in their fourth year, have harnessed the startup spirit aptly associated with the technology sector to launch the first student-run law journal at The Australian National University (ANU).
The ANU Journal of Law and Technology (JOLT) is also the first legal technology journal produced at the University. With its inaugural issue due to be published in March 2020, the bi-annual publication is currently recruiting students for its editorial board.
In this Q&A, Jacinta and Aamina discuss the background of ANU JOLT and how they hope it can contribute to the fast-moving world of legal tech.
What inspired you to establish ANU JOLT?
Our initial motivation was to create a publication with strong student involvement. ANU provides many opportunities to explore individual interests, and we wanted to add a platform where students could gain both editorial experience and insight into the workings of an academic journal.
Law and technology then emerged as the clear focus of the publication. The intersection of these disciplines is growing, with the rapid development of technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and biotechnology creating complex legal issues. This is a significant area of legal scholarship, and we think ANU has a unique opportunity to contribute exceptional work in this space.
What are your aims for the journal?
We want the journal to be a platform for cutting-edge work regarding law and technology. ANU JOLT offers an exciting opportunity for contributors to write something fresh and for students to engage with tech issues that are relevant to the legal profession. Although other legal tech journals exist, the extensive scope of this area ensures ANU JOLT’s contribution will be significant.
What do you find most interesting about the intersection of law and technology?
A: The idea of online courts and algorithm-run mediations initially terrified me, but learning about how certain organisations and projects have progressed paints a more optimistic picture. There have been new developments regarding online dispute resolution platforms that contemplates utilising AI tools to streamline court procedures.
This aims to reduce costs and increase access to justice but at the same time these tools also bring up several doubts such as biases in algorithms. It is safe to say that I am not sold on online courts but the tools exist to make certain procedures faster and cheaper. Whilst no judges have been replaced by AI yet, I don’t think it will be too long before we will be logging onto an application instead of attending court.
J: My study of international relations and international law has prompted a strong interest in the role of tech in this space. Rapid technological advances in warfare – cyber-attacks, lethal autonomous weapons, masers, for example – raise a number of questions regarding the applicability and efficacy of international humanitarian law. I think conventional means of warfare are becoming increasingly antiquated, and I am interested to see how the law will evolve beyond the Geneva Conventions and the Additional Protocols to ensure the protection of human rights in both international and non-international armed conflicts.
What are some of the current or emerging issues in law tech you hope to explore?
An emerging issue in this space, which has a real impact on both of us, is how quickly AI has taken over many of the more mundane tasks inside a law firm. We are often hearing about how AI tools are conducting legal research in a fraction of the time that it once took multiple paralegals to complete.
For this reason, we think ANU JOLT will provide an opportunity for students to converse, engage and write about the most pertinent issues facing future legal professionals and how their newly gained knowledge can better equip them for the rapid developments in the legal sphere.
How will you ensure quality in research articles?
All submissions will be subject to a rigorous peer-review process. Following an initial desk review, successful articles will be sent to an expert in the field to review the content. ANU JOLT has academic advisers with expertise in the law-tech field who will verify the viability of academic works. The student editorial board will then conduct structural editing and ensure articles are compliant with the Australian Guide to Legal Citation.
How can students get involved?
The journal is currently recruiting editors, sub-editors and general members – and this is open to all ANU College of Law students! For submissions, the journal will be publishing primarily academic works and aims to publish student essays and case notes in the future. Stay tuned for more details.