Academics building an artificial intelligence-based system that would spot legal disputes before they surface have appealed to in-house lawyers to help them with the project. The idea of the AI-enabled dispute avoidance tool is to sift through business data to identify early signs of disputes - for example changes in the tone of email correspondence or non-identical versions of a supplier’s contract being sent to different individuals in a company. 

The initiative is one of the first announced by the Deep Tech Dispute Resolution Lab, set up last year at the University of Oxford, to carry out multi-disciplinary work. The lab’s core team of 12 researchers straddles law, computer science, finance, economics, political science and psychology.

'Armed with this tool, your organisation can save time, energy, and money to nip a dispute in the bud,' the lab claims. 

However to develop the tool the team faces an obstacle familiar to lawtech research: access to real legal data. Hence the invitation to in-house legal teams to collaborate by sharing organisational data relating to past disputes. 'We envisage our lab researchers working with an in-house legal team and their company's IT team,' said Dr Mimi Zou, the lab's principal investigator. 

The lab stresses that it is not asking collaborators to break professional confidences: the research team, which includes data protection experts, is seeking organisational data. 'As academic researchers, we must also comply with the strictest standards of research ethics that go beyond the GDPR,' the invitation states. 'We will work closely with your data protection team to ensure that these legal and ethical requirements are strictly adhered to throughout the project.'

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