Playing games – research in online dispute resolution

The very productive and dynamic Legal Design Lab at Stanford Law have released a new project recently called “Learned Hands”. It is described as:

… a game in which you spot possible legal issues in real people’s stories about their problems. You read the stories, and then say whether you see a certain legal issue — family law issues, consumer law issues, criminal law issues, etc.

The game is also a research project. Each time you play, you are training a machine learning model to be able to spot people’s legal issues. This model will be used to develop access to justice technologies that connect people with public legal help resources. It will help us to make a Rosetta Stone for legal help — linking the legal help guides that courts and legal aid groups offer to the people who are searching for help.

You need to create an account and then you can play, reading various fact scenarios and answering questions about the issues you can see. New Zealand players might find some of the scenarios a little foreign (although familiar enough from US TV), but it is interesting to try.

Closer to home we are looking for lawyers to play an issue spotting game as well. It is really an experiment but, hey, we can call it a game. At the Legal Issues Centre we’ve created a mock civil legal problem and developed a mock version of the British Columbia Civil Resolution Tribunal (CRT) portal. This is part of our project Aotearoa’s Future Courts, which is co-funded by the wonderful New Zealand Law Foundation. We’ve recently had almost 40 Dunedin locals come through our lab to take part in the experiment. They were given the mock problem to read and then they interviewed our confederate (a fancy psychology term for “play actor”) to get further information. They were then asked to plead the case in the mock CRT portal. My colleague Dr Bridget Irvine is currently analysing their responses and we’ll also look at their interviewing of the confederate as the project progresses.

In the meantime, we are looking for a similar number of New Zealand lawyers (with at least 3 years litigation experience) to complete the same scenario the Dunedin folk tried. The lawyers will also be asked to plead the case in the mock CRT portal, so it will give participating lawyers some hands on experience with an online court system. We want to compare lay style to legal style, so we really need experienced lawyers to take part to allow us to make accurate comparisons. There is a time commitment involved – three hours all up. Yes we know, we know – people are busy. However, participating will be a real contribution to a possible online courts future, one that is arriving fast in Canada, Australia and England. If you are interested in being part of helping us build that future to serve everyone well, go here – it has the project information, consent form, and even an online booking schedule so you can secure your spot and play! You’ll also get a $50 book voucher to say thank you.

We’ll be presenting a snapshot of the project at the upcoming ODR Forum in Auckland, which looks like a great programme for those interested in online dispute resolution futures.

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