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JILT 2000 (1) - Philip Leith


BILETA 2000: World Wide Law

A review of the 15th BILETA Conference,
13-14 April 2000, University of Warwick

Reviewed by:
Philip Leith
Queen's University of Belfast
and Chair of
BILETAExecutive Committee

Report Contents


1. Introduction

The 15th International Annual BILETA conferencetook place on the 13th and 14th of April at the Scarman House Conference Centre, University of Warwick.

The conference topic was 'World Wide Law' incorporating how technology-led globalization has impacted on legal education, practice and legislation, which allowed for a wide variety of papers to be presented.

The conference demonstrated that technology and law continues to be a growing and significant sub-field of legal scholarship, as this year saw an increased number of papers and attendees from around the globe.

2. Old favourites and broader disciplines

There were over 50 papers delivered at the conference, so most had to be arranged as themed parallel sessions, which allowed people the freedom to attend talks on their specialist areas. (Please see the Conference web sitefor the full programme and range of abstracts).

There were sessions on C&IT in Legal Education, Distance Learning and Virtual Environments which covered topics which were of early concern to BILETA, and which continue to be important for pushing forward the boundaries of the use of IT in legal education debate. However, as with other recent BILETAconferences, there was a large number of substantive papers dealing with topics such as intellectual property, e-commerce, cyber-crime, internet publication, regulation and electronic contracting, as well as developments in legal practice and legal theory, highlighting definite IT trends in current legal thinking and practice around the world.

3. Global access to the law

One of the major themes of the conference was access to legal information in a global context and the keynote papers from Lord Justice Brooke, Peter Martinand Tom Bruce(the latter two from Cornell Legal Information Institute) all examined the problems of access to law in the common law countries. Lord Brooke, as one of the proponents of a UK Legal Information Institute spoke about the BAILIIproject and access to public legal information and Peter Martin(via a live video link to the US) looked at how technology and access to law by the public was changing the professional nature of law.

Tom Brucein his keynote paper looked at what could be learned from having run the Cornell Legal Information Instituteand how these kinds of systems should be developed in future (and, for example, whether the law school was the correct location for them). A video link to the Australian Legal Information Institute (AustLII) allowed the Directors of AustLII, Philip Chung, Graham Greenleaf and Andrew Mowbray respond to Tom's paper with some robustness, which made for a very lively and enjoyable debate.

The use of real-time videoconferencing was commented upon by many attendees as having been one of the highlights of the conference. Rather than providing dull talking heads, they were highly interactive and entertaining, which certainly enhanced rather than reduce debate and added to the global feel of the conference.

There were, a significant number of overseas attendees from across Europe, America, Australia and New Zealand, Singapore and Malaysia, demonstrating that the UK is an important location for researchers in interdisciplinary fields to meet and to discuss current concerns. Scarman House proved an excellent and comfortable backdrop to these discussions, aided of course by fine cuisine and a Butterworths-sponsored champagne reception!

4. Conclusion

All agreed the 15th BILETA conferencehad proved a tremendous success and was once again instrumental in pushing the legal and IT debate further into the public eye. It has been the aimof BILETAover the past few years to expand and develop its work in the global arena of law and technology, and the conference demonstrates that this appears to be happening. It is of interest that at the annual AGM held at the conference, a name change was instigated and BILETA now stands for 'British and Irish Law, Education and Technology Association' rather the older more 'techie' title of 'British and Irish Legal Education Technology Association.'

The conference papers will be located in full on the BILETA web site, but extended versions of these will also be available in this and the next edition of JILT available in October, many of which have been developed into refereed articles. We hope you manage to get some of the flavour of the conference from the papers produced here.

Thanks must go to Abdul Paliwala and Julie Moreton, and of course Carol Hall and Sheila Bevan (the former CTI Law Technology Centre) for arranging such a smooth running conference. The 16th BILETA conference will be held in Edinburgh next year, dates to be confirmed.

This is a Conference Report published on 30 June 2000.

Citation: Leith P, 'BILETA 2000: World Wide Law', Conference Report, 2000 (2)The Journal of Information, Law and Technology (JILT). <>. New citation as at 1/1/04: <>



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