The fast-developing field of legal informatics now has an academic centre in the UK – backed by two global law firms. The centre, at Ulster University, aims to be at the forefront of advancing the use of technologies such as artificial intelligence in legal services and legal education.

The Legal Innovation Centre, described as the first of its kind in the UK, is a collaboration between the university's school of law and the school of computing and intelligent systems. Global law firms Allen & Overy and Baker McKenzie, both of which have 'northshoring' bases in Belfast, are supporting the initiative which is also sponsored by Invest Northern Ireland.

At a launch event yesterday Ulster University’s vice-chancellor, professor Paddy Nixon, said: 'There is a growing recognition of the crucial and ever-expanding role of technology in law. The centre will undertake much-needed research on technological innovations to facilitate legal process improvement, and so promote greater economic efficiency and improved access to justice.'

Jane Townsend, partner and head of Allen & Overy’s Legal Services Centre in Belfast, said: 'Legal services is a knowledge-led business and technology is pivotal to everything we do. Across our firm, we seek to continually improve and enhance our systems and the way we do things. This collaboration gives us the opportunity to work towards these and other goals while deepening our strong relationship with Ulster University.'

The centre will be led by Professor Eugene McNamee (law), Professor Kevin Curran (computer science) and Dr Catrina Denvir (centre director).