A new home for legal tech: Professor Wolfgang Alschner opens the Legal Technology Lab on the uOttawa campus

Faculty of Law - Common Law Section

By Common Law

Communication, Faculty of Law

Wolfgang Alschner and Diana Inkpen
With each passing year, the Internet provides lawyers and legal scholars with unprecedented access to data on treaties, cases, and regulations. With this increased availability of legal data, it is becoming more challenging and time-consuming – perhaps even impossible – for legal experts and firms to comprehensively analyze documents and provide efficient services. As legal data grows, new tools are needed to study it efficiently and effectively.

In line with this goal, the Legal Technology Lab officially launched its new lab premises at the University of Ottawa on June 1, 2022, among a large number of enthusiasts, including law and engineering students and researchers. With this new space, the lab aims to harness new technology and leverage the expertise of its researchers in an effort to reduce the legal world's complexity. While the lab began engaging in projects in 2020, this launch marked the first time since the beginning of the pandemic that the lab’s leaders, scholars, and interested students in law and computer science had the opportunity to meet each other in person.

The Legal Technology Lab, one of the only labs of its kind in the world, is the result of the cooperation, expertise, experience, effort, and support of numerous individuals and groups. Led by Common Law’s Dr. Wolfgang Alschner, a pioneer in applying data analysis in the empirical study of law, and Dr. Diana Inkpen from the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, the lab is an example of valuable collaboration between the Faculties of Law and Engineering. Its existence is a testament to the determined efforts of a truly unique multidisciplinary team. The launch of the modern and well-equipped physical space for the lab is also only possible because of the generous funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), which awarded Dr. Alschner funding through the John R. Evans Leaders Fund – an innovative support system for cutting-edge research infrastructure.

Wolfgang Alschner
Legal Technology Lab

“With the lab, we now have a flashy, modern place where students and researchers can go to immerse themselves in the exciting new, interdisciplinary field of legal tech.”

Wolfgang Alschner

— Associate Professor, Common Law Section

A key challenge for inter-Faculty collaborations is space. This new premises, in the proximity of other high-tech labs at uOttawa, now provides a unique place on neutral ground for researchers to gather, and is part of the University’s larger efforts to create an emerging ecosystem for the digital humanities. “Research spaces need to be stimulating to be used,” says Professor Alschner. “With the lab, we now have a flashy, modern place where students and researchers can go to immerse themselves in the exciting new, interdisciplinary field of legal tech."

The complexity of the modern legal world arises for a variety reasons, and as Dickens realized long ago, the law itself can be the most important source of its own complexity (Dickens, Bleak House). In the complex world of law, this lab, which aligns with the objectives of the Centre for Law, Technology and Society (CLTS), engages in a wide array of activities, from researching how to automate legal processes and improve legal text mining to assisting in developing new legal technology applications and advancing legal technology education.

The lab has already collaborated with several successful, large-scale projects with industry and public sector partners.  Now in its new location in Simard Hall, it is ready to engage in new projects to analyze legal documents more efficiently and effectively and advance legal research as much as possible.