Technological Innovation and Legal Knowledge

law and technology
The European Group for Public Administration, Zagreb

Ciarán O’Kelly


September 7, 2023

A copy of the paper is here.

Professional expertise is based on claims to specialist knowledge; the professions organise and regulate areas of social life in answer to those claims and they have long held themselves out as a ‘scarce resource’ both in serving and governing their clients. The practices they devise to put knowledge into practice have always been bound up in technological innovation.

In this paper I examine the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques in a specific professional context: that of legal practice. Technological innovation in law opens up new interfaces between scientific method, legal knowledge, and law’s objects. Vast datasets in civil cases have required new organisational forms whereby lawyers work in multidisciplinary teams with data scientists and others. Supervised machine learning techniques are for instances applied to large datasets for purposes of disclosure.

Such practices match styles of probabilistic ‘knowing’ with rules and norms of legal integrity, specifically around proportionality and reasonableness. Data, obscured by scale, can only be apprehended through an entanglement with the techniques used to manage and explore them. This entanglement configures lawyers in turn as “methods of inquiry” alongside data science tools; civil procedure rules and case management processes.

Having described this entanglement of technology and professional practice in law, I ask how knowledge interacts with professional practice in the AI era and I discuss broader ethical implications raised by the administration of knowledge. How are ideas, facts and things represented and transformed within institutions and practice? How does professional accountability shift and how is the administration of justice understood as knowledge landscapes evolve?


BibTeX citation:
  author = {O’Kelly, Ciarán},
  title = {Technological {Innovation} and {Legal} {Knowledge}},
  booktitle = {The European Group for Public Administration},
  date = {2023-09-07},
  url = {},
  langid = {en}
For attribution, please cite this work as:
O’Kelly, Ciarán. 2023. “Technological Innovation and Legal Knowledge.” In The European Group for Public Administration.