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JILT 1997 (1) - Chris Reed

Andreas Mitrakas

A legal advisory system concerning electronic data interchange within the European Community

Complex 6/96 (Norwegian Research Centre for Computers and Law: Oslo 1996),
v + 87 pp, NKR 138 (£12.80),
ISBN 82-518-3508-9

Reviewed by
Chris Reed
Queen Mary & Westfield College
chris.reed@qmw.ac.uk

This volume contains the author's report of his research under the EU's Human Capital and Mobility Programme, carried out at the Centre for Computers and Law at the Erasmus University, Rotterdam. It is divided into essentially three parts:

  • a detailed description of the JURICAS legal advisory system shell;
  • a brief discussion of the difference between legal expert systems and legal advisory systems, and the applications for which each is best suited; and
  • a description of the LEDIA advisory system, constructed by the author using JURICAS, which is designed to advise users of EDI on the legal issues relating to their activities.

JURICAS is an easy to use authoring system and advisory system shell, which runs on PCs under DOS. An author controls the display of information to the user by defining the information which is to be displayed in response to particular inputs. The most commonly used format is the multiple choice question, the user's answer determining which question or other information is next displayed. There is also a facility for displaying supplementary information, such as the text of a statutory provision, to assist the user in answering questions. The description of JURICAS is sufficiently detailed that a prospective author could decide whether to consider using it to construct his own legal advisory system.

The discussion of expert and advisory systems is very brief, consisting of only eight pages. It accepts the conclusions of researchers such as Richard Susskind or Philip Leith that expert systems are only constructable in small, precise domains of law, and that where the law is diffuse, unclear or developing the more appropriate tool is a legal advisory system. This part of the report is primarily included to justify the author's decision to construct LEDIA as an advisory rather than an expert system, though the discussion might serve as an introduction to the issues for a researcher considering what type of system to attempt.

The final part of the report describes the LEDIA system, a prototype advisory system on the legal issues relating to EDI, and in particular interchange agreements. This is a domain in which an advisory system has great potential; as the author points out, only large organisations can afford the legal resources which are necessary to draft an interchange agreement from scratch. LEDIA's aim is to make advice on interchange agreements available either directly to EDI users, or to their legal advisers, and different user interfaces are available for each of these classes of user. Experience in EDI law is scarce and thus expensive, so the potential utility of a system such as LEDIA in enabling non-expert lawyers to advise smaller clients is therefore obvious. Two avenues for the future development of LEDIA seem particularly interesting. The author suggests that the system will be able to be used as a tool for drafting interchange agreements, basing the drafting on model agreements produced by national EDI associations and, most importantly, the TEDIS Model Interchange Agreement. As an extension of this capability, it is further suggested that LEDIA might be used as an objective way of negotiating an interchange agreement. This latter development is at first sight plausible, but it must be remembered that in commercial contracts the most fiercely disputed issues are not those technical matters which LEDIA might assist with but commercial issues, such as financial limits on liability, rights of termination other than for breach, etc. However, this may be less true in the civil law jurisdictions within which the author is primarily working.

Because this is a report to the European Commission, rather than a formal research paper, it concentrates on describing the author's activities during the period of EC funding rather than producing an analysis of his findings. This analysis may be expected in his PhD thesis, which is currently near completion. Additionally, as is inevitable with any writing on the construction of expert or advisory systems in the legal domain, some of the most interesting questions (e.g. the quality of interchange agreements drafted by the system) can only be answered by examining the system itself. Nonetheless, the report would be useful reading for any researcher who was thinking of constructing a legal advisory system, as it would enable that researcher to clarify several of the issues to be addressed in construction and avoid some of the known unfruitful approaches. The Appendix, which contains a reasonably comprehensive bibliography of writings on the law relating to EDI, will also be of interest to those who are working in that field.


Date of publication: 28 February 1997.

Citation: Mitrakas, A, 'A legal advisory system concerning electronic data interchange within the European Community', Complex 6/96 (Norwegian Research Centre for Computers and Law: Oslo 1996), 1997 (1) The Journal of Information, Law and Technology (JILT). <http://elj.warwick.ac.uk/jilt/bookrev/97_1reed/>. New citation as at 1/1/04:<http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/law/elj/jilt/1997_1/reed/>


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