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What will scholars from the ALS be doing this summer? Radboud Winkels is off to Canada to the Montreal Cyberjustice Laboratory at the Université de Montréal. He investigates issues at the interface of law and artificial intelligence, such as online conflict resolution.

Cyberjustice Laboratory – That certainly sounds a bit futuristic. What is it exactly?

“The lab is a research centre specialised in the digitalisation of legal systems - for instance, online conflict resolution. The lab has many resources such as hi-tech court rooms and a computer laboratory. The idea is to develop platforms, software and chatbots that can be of help to the parties to the proceedings as well as to the legal professionals involved.

What role do you play in this?

“I am one of the participants in ACT (Autonomy through Cyberjustice Technologies), a research partnership. ACT is a six-year project in which a sizeable international team of legal professionals, tech specialists and psychologists work on practical solutions to issues that crop up in the field of law and artificial intelligence. You could, for instance set up a system that brings interesting case law or new legislation to the attention of lawyers, or that advises individuals on whether they have a “case” to “make” and what their chances of success would be if they were to go to trial. Debt restructuring of natural persons and petty fraud cases could largely be dealt with in a virtual environment. My research into network analysis and data science fits right in with this.”

Run us through a typical day in Montreal.

“After starting the day with (a hearty) breakfast, I take a taxi from my hotel to the campus. We start there with a plenary session – there are dozens of partners involved in the ACT project, ranging from academia and government to business. Afterward, we split up into smaller groups that are each in charge of a subproject within one of the various working groups. One working group is devoted to “conflict prevention”, and one of its subprojects is “Pre-conflict decision tools”. Within the same working group, there is also a subproject “Online dispute resolution”, etc., etc.

Would you say that the Université de Montréal is at the cutting edge in this field?

“It is one of two major universities in town, the other being McGill – which is a partner of the UvA. I’ve been familiar with the Université de Montréal since my student days and when I was doing my PhD, although then it was another department. I was concerned then with the educational application of artificial intelligence, and now in the law. Over the past several years, the Université de Montréal has become a key player in Canada in the field of artificial intelligence and the law. This is in line with the Canadian government’s investment strategy with respect to artificial intelligence.”

How long will you be in Montreal?

“This time only a few days for the kick-off. I could spend more time there as a fellow, but that would be difficult to combine with my responsibilities as director of PPLE, my current job. In any event, the project is run as a network organisation – in other words, we meet remotely.”