Sarah gave a talk titled “Issues with Using Primary Law as Data” at the Australian Law Librarians’ Association (ALLA) Conference in Hobart, Tasmania, on August 26, 2022. Here’s the session description:
Researchers and developers are actively looking for opportunities for leveraging the primary law as data. This work is anticipated to be transformational for legal systems and research: promises of productivity gains and new ways to understand legal systems and the law itself are just some of the potential outcomes for this work. However, it needs to be informed by understanding of the structure of primary law and how the law can be appropriately used as data. The law has notable attributes which create both advantages and disadvantages as data. Advantages for use of primary law as data include considerations like substantial bodies of public documents with long timelines, improved natural language processing capabilities, and significant real world applications. Some of the disadvantages include issues such as sampling bias, poor formatting of many document sets, and missing counterfactual data. Some of these characteristics of primary law as data can be easily addressed, while some are likely to continue to enhance or limit the use of these datasets into the future as they are central to the way the law itself is created and used.
Understanding the prospects for this work and how it can be approached will assist law librarians in their own research and in understanding how to assist others in their work. This session will ensure attendees are conversant with the issues which will immediately help their work and more confident to move forward with learning more about the subject if desired.