The Journal of Cross-disciplinary Research in Computational Law (CRCL) invites excellence in law, computer science and other relevant disciplines with a focus on two types of ‘legal technologies’: (1) data-driven (e.g. predictive analytics, ‘intelligent’ search) and (2) code-driven (e.g. smart contracts, algorithmic decision-making (ADM), legal expert systems), and (3) their hybrids (e.g. code-driven decision-making based on data-driven research).

Please note that at this moment we are preparing the first issue, which will appear in the second half of 2021. We will open the journal for submissions in the course of 2021, do not hesitate to contact the editors if you have a proposal for a special issue or an article. 

About CRCL ◉ Editorial team ◉ Submissions

Launching of online first articles

The journal has kicked off mid-November 2020 with an invited article by Wolfgang Hoffmann-Riem, former Justice of the German Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe, who was part of the Court when it decided the seminal case that established the fundamental right to the guarantee of the confidentiality and integrity of information technology systems. By inviting him to contribute to the opening issue of CRCL we emphasise our close attention to legal practice.

The second online-first article (late November 2020) is authored by Mireille Hildebrandt, founding member of journal's editoral team. Her article concerns the normative alterity that is inherent in the different technologies that articulate legal norms, arguing that the normative affordances of text-based technologies enabled the rise of the rule of law. She contends that the transition to data- and code-driven 'legal' technologies will transform legal practice and thereby the mode of existence of modern positive law.  

In the third online-first article (beginning December 2020) Reuben Binns, with a background in both computer science and philosophy, investigates the difference(s) that make(s) a difference in text-driven law as compared to data- and code-driven decision-making systems. This involves issues of procedure (getting to a right answer in the right way), discretion (dealing with the indeterminary inherent in text-driven systems), anticipation (the role of new case law) and a number of other incompatibilities that are all highly relevant when considering the integration of 'legal technologies' into legal practice or legal scholarship. 

The fourth online-first article (half December 2020) argues the crucial importance of delay in law and the rule of law. Whereas efficiency is often associated with speed, Laurence Diver, founding member of this journal’s editorial team, argues that the slowness of a text-driven legal practice may be a feature rather than a bug when it comes to legal protection. To make this point, Diver coined the concept of a ‘hermeneutic gap’ and in this article he explores to what extent ‘slow computing’ might contribute to sustaining this gap before bridging it in the context of legal practice.

Legal practice is where computational law will be resisted, used or even fostered. CRCL wishes to raise questions as to (1) when the introduction of legal technologies should be resisted and on what grounds, (2) how and under what conditions they can be integrated into the practice of law and legal research and (3) how their integration may inform, erode or enhance legal protection and the rule of law.

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Online first

  • Computational legalism and the affordance of delay in law

    Laurence Diver

    Delay is a central element of law-as-we-know-it: the ability to interpret legal norms and contest their requirements is contingent on the temporal spaces that text affords citizens. As more computational systems are introduced into the legal system, these spaces are threatened with collapse, as the immediacy of ‘computational legalism’ dispenses with the natural ‘slowness’ of text. In order to preserve the nature of legal protection, we need to be clear about where in the legal process such delays play a normative role and to ensure that they are reflected in the affordances of the computational systems that are so introduced. This entails a focus on the design and production of such systems, and the resistance of the ideology of ‘efficiency’ that pervades contemporary development practices.

    Reply by Ewa Luger, Chancellor's Fellow, University of Edinburgh.

  • Analogies and Disanalogies Between Machine-Driven and Human-Driven Legal Judgement

    Reuben Binns

    Are there certain desirable properties from text-driven law, which have parallels in data-driven law? As a preliminary exercise, this article explores a range of analogies and disanalogies between text-driven normativity and its data-driven counterparts. Ultimately, the conclusion is that the analogies are weaker than the disanalogies. But the hope is that, in the process of drawing them, we learn something more about the comparison between text and data-driven normativities and the (im?)possibility of data-driven law.

    Reply by Emily M. Bender, Professor of Computational Linguistics, University of Washington.

  • The adaptive nature of text-driven law

    Mireille Hildebrandt

    This article introduces the concept of ‘technology-driven normativities’, marking the difference between norms, at the generic level, as legitimate expectations that coordinate human interaction, and subsets of norms at specific levels, such as moral or legal norms. The article is focused on the normativity that is generated by text, fleshing out a set of relevant affordances that are crucial for text-driven law and the rule of law. This concerns the ambiguity of natural language, the resulting open texture of legal concepts, the multi-interpretability of legal norms and, finally, the contestability of their application. This leads to an assessment of legal certainty that thrives on the need to interpret, the ability to contest and the concomitant need to decide the applicability and the meaning of relevant legal norms. Legal certainty thus sustains the adaptive nature of legal norms in the face of changing circumstances, which may not be possible for code- or data-driven law. This understanding of legal certainty demonstrates the meaning of legal protection under text-driven law. A proper understanding of the legal protection that is enabled by current positive law (which is text-driven), should inform the assessment of the protection that could be offered by data- or code-driven law, as they will generate other ‘technology-driven normativities’.

    Reply by Michael Rovatsos, Professor of Artificial Intelligence, University of Edinburgh.

  • Legal Technology/Computational Law Preconditions, Opportunities and Risks

    Wolfgang Hoffmann-Riem

    Although computers and digital technologies have existed for many decades, their capabilities today have changed dramatically. Current buzzwords like Big Data, artificial intelligence, robotics, and blockchain are shorthand for further leaps in development. The digitalisation of communication, which is a disruptive innovation, and the associated digital transformation of the economy, culture, politics, and public and private communication – indeed, probably of virtually every area of life – will cause dramatic social change. It is essential to prepare for the fact that digitalisation will also have a growing impact on the legal system.

    Reply by Virginia Dignum, Professor at the Department of Computing Science, Umeå University.


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