We’re building AI that can diagnose your legal problem

23 Oct 2019

The legal services charity, Justice Connect, will undertake groundbreaking work in artificial intelligence to help Australians access free legal support, with work made possible by a significant grant from Victorian Legal Services Board of $300,000, announced today.

Using anonymous data captured through its online intake tool since August last year, Justice Connect will train a natural language processing model to diagnose legal problems in the natural language of everyday Australians.

“This work is going to fundamentally transform how we can help people understand what their legal problem is, and enable us to connect them with services and resources more accurately online,” said Ms Kate Fazio, Head of Innovation and Engagement at Justice Connect.

“This project will enable us to make a step-change in how we provide services in an online setting. Too often, Australians go online looking for legal help, but in describing their problem in terms familiar to them, they struggle to find the right legal services and resources. There’s a disconnect between the language people use, and the language legal services use.”

“This work will truly bridge the gap between people looking for legal help online and the tools and resources available to them,” said Ms Fazio.

Justice Connect will partner with Australian academics at the University of Melbourne specialising in artificial intelligence to deliver this ambitious project. Professor Tim Baldwin, Director of the ARC Centre in Cognitive Computing for Medical Technologies, has been working with Justice Connect to plan the AI project, and will continue involvement once work gets underway.

“I’m very excited to be able to work with Justice Connect in developing natural language processing techniques that tackle real-world societal problems, namely improving the provision of legal services for people at risk, and reducing the manual overhead in determining what those services are. We will be making sure not to compromise the privacy of any users in the process,” said Professor Baldwin.

“This work is seriously exciting stuff. It shows that Justice Connect continues to excel in digital innovation and is truly operating at the forefront of a global movement to modernise legal services,” said Chris Povey, CEO of Justice Connect.

“We keep seeing that the key barrier to engaging online when people have legal problems is their lack of confidence describing that problem and choosing which legal issue categories might apply to them. We are addressing this issue head-on.”

The grant to Justice Connect has been provided under the Victorian Legal Services Board new granting program which supports organisations to scale and diffuse their innovative work.