Edinburgh Research Explorer

Prof Burkhard Schafer

Personal Chair of Computational Legal Theory

Willingness to take PhD students: Yes

AI and law; theories of legal reasoning; regulation of technology

Biography

I studied Theory of Science, Logic, Theoretical Linguistics, Philosophy and Law at the Universities of Mainz, Munich, Florence, and Lancaster. My main field of interest is the interaction between law, science and computer technology from doctrinal, comparative, and legal-theoretical perspectives. This research encompasses both the problems that technology and technological change poses to the law – technology law – and the use of technology in the justice system and the legal services industry – legal informatics.

Both perspectives, technology as a subject of regulation and a tool for regulation, are brought together through a theoretical perspective:  How can law, understood as a system, communicate with systems external to it? “Computational legal theory”, in the understanding of my chair, tries to give answers to this question, by exploring the scope and also limits of computational representations of legal thought, and also by an analysis of how technology changes the way law thinks about such issues as responsibility, liability, harm and ultimately personhood and what it means to be human, living a lawful life. 

I'm co-founder and currently Director of the  SCRIPT Centre for IT and IP law,  where our work covers all aspects of technology regulation, from IP law to data protection to e-commerce to e-forensics. Since its inception, the hope for SCRIPT was to break down disciplinary silos, develop a holistic approach to technology regulation that crosses the lines between legal subdisciplines, and trains lawyers that are technology literate, and technologists with a sound understanding of law and ethics. Most recently, this lead to my involvement as Co-I with Creative Informatics, the large R&D project for the Creative Industries,

As a co-founder and co-director of the  Joseph Bell Centre for Legal Reasoning and Forensic Statistics, I also work on questions of legal technology and its role in the justice system. Most recently, this meant an interest in computational creativity, emotional AI, and what these concepts mean when applied to law.

I'm involved with a number of organizations that promote the exchange between computer science and law, including the German Association for Informatics, BILETA, and the Evidence and Investigation network of the Scottish Institute for Policing Research. I’m currently a member of the expert group of AI4People, chairing their working group on an ethics framework for legal technology, and member of the data ethics group of the Turing Institute. I’m also a member of the legal technologist accreditation panel of the Law Society of Scotland.

Websites

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