Legal Self-help Tools in China
By Jinzhe Tan, Research Assistant at the Cyberjustice Laboratory and PhD Student at Université de Montréal
Efficiency is key for anyone involved in legal proceedings. However, improving legal efficiency has been a challenge due to the large number of paperwork, as well as problems such as information asymmetry. In recent years, artificial intelligence has made progress in the processing of voice and text, which has led to many applications of artificial intelligence in the legal field. With the advancement of technology, attempts to use computers to help solve the above problems have been carried out, and some preliminary results have now appeared. Although they have not yet achieved completely satisfactory results, it is foreseeable that this is a moving forward direction.
There are three main participants in legal proceedings: the litigants (individuals and organizations), lawyers (lawyers and law firms), and the courts (judges and courts), and the requirements of legal self-help tools vary considerably from one participant to another.
The litigants mainly need access to legal information, to know the results of similar cases, to match lawyers, etc.; lawyers need a systematic understanding of the operation of a certain area, document combing, information searching, etc.; judges, on the other hand, mainly need tools to improve the efficiency of trials, to assist in trials, document processing, etc.
Around 2017, there was an explosion of legal self-help tools combining artificial intelligence and law in China. The product format is mainly reflected in four ways: intelligent consultation, information retrieval, case prediction, and document review.
2. Products developed by private companies
*most websites are only available in Mandarin
|Intelligent consultation||fagougou (in use)||Sogou Smart Lawyer (no longer available)||Fali (no longer available)||Faxiaotao (no longer available)||Lvpin100 (in use)|
|Case Search Category||Legal Miner (in use)||Falvgu (no longer available)||ydzk (in use)|
|Case prediction category||Ydzk (in use)|
|Document review category||wusong (no longer available)||niufawang (no longer available)|
When litigants encounter legal problems, they can consult through intelligent Q&A platforms, which give relevant legal advice based on the case. The platforms achieve natural language recognition through AI, and these products mainly obtain information from litigants through single rounds of natural language dialogue or multiple rounds of natural language dialogue + multiple-choice questions. However, due to the limitations of natural language processing technology, most of the products have not provided good experience in solving problems, this in turn leads to a lack of profitability for the product, so some of the products have stopped updating or divested their services of legal self-help tools, and even the official websites of some products have been closed.
3. Products developed by public authority
The government or court led self-help tools are still in use and kept up to date because there are no profit considerations. Also, because they have complete data sources and databases in their hands, it is easier for them to build data-driven self-help tools.
3.1 Products developed by the Supreme People’s Court
· China Judicial Process Information Online(中国审判流程信息公开网)
This website mainly provides litigants and lawyers with information on the trial process of cases accepted by courts across the country.
· China Court Trial Online(中国庭审公开网)
The content of this website mainly includes live, records, previews, and reviews of court trials. In addition, the platform lists major cases tried by various courts and ranks them according to their popularity. Individuals, organizations, and lawyers can watch the live or records of the trial on the website and learn about the actual situation of the trial.
· China Judgements Online(中国裁判文书网)
The judgment documents of courts at all levels across the country are published on this website, and there are now nearly 130 million judicial documents, which are the main data source for individuals and organizations to inquire about similar cases.
· China Judgements Enforcement Information Online(中国执行信息公开网)
It mainly provides the public with access to defaulted litigants.
· China Justice Big Data Service Platform(中国司法大数据服务网)
The China Justice Big Data Service platform aims to meet the demand for sharing and exchanging judicial data, focusing on four aspects: combing the judicial big data resource system, data resource integration, platform construction, and data sharing services. The intended users of the China Justice Big Data Service Platform are general public, government departments, legal research institutions, and judicial practice institutions.
3.2 Products developed by the government
Different from the Supreme People's Court, the Ministry of Justice of China has developed the China Legal Services Platform(中国法律服务网), this website is primarily a self-help service for individuals or organizations seeking legal information and advice. On the website, the government offers free legal self-help tools to the public, among which are intelligent legal consultation, message legal consultation, knowledge Q&A consultation and more.
The intelligent legal advice function uses a multi-round question and answer format, and the website will eventually issue an "Intelligent Legal Advice" based on each round of questions and answers. In the Legal Advice letter, evidence collection methods, litigation process, materials required for litigation, costs, relevant forms of documents, suggestions for action, related laws and regulations, similar cases, are given.
In our trial, Legal Advice would also give some advice to people facing difficulties, for example, for people facing divorce, it said: "If you are unfortunately divorced, think of it as a life experience and tell yourself that you have done your best for the marriage and can move on to a new lifestyle without regrets."
In general, this legal consultation function has been considered comprehensively, including substantive and procedural issues. It can be used as a reference for cases with relatively clear facts and no complex disputes. However, some details that have a great impact on the outcome of the case, for example, whether the party is an executive or an employee in an internal company dispute, the seriousness of the circumstances in a criminal offense, and whether the party's confession of guilt and punishment conforms to the criminal policy, are still not considered.
Message legal consultation serves to make up for the shortcomings of intelligent legal consultation by allowing individuals or organizations with more ambiguous questions to use the system to fully describe the problem they have encountered and then wait for a dedicated member of staff to provide a human answer, but this function is no longer in the realm of self-help tools.
Unlike the above two types of consultation, the Q&A consultation is more knowledge-oriented, providing individuals or organizations who want to learn the law with a condensed version of legal knowledge written by legal experts, providing explanations and discernment of basic legal concepts and knowledge.
Online advice is generally not legally valid. Usually, the content of online advice is not verified and is based on the accounts and descriptions of the parties. There is no Lawyer-Client Relationship between the parties and the website provides advice as a reference opinion only.
Due to the low number of lawyers per person in China, there is no guarantee that all people will have access to adequate lawyer resources. That is why the legal advice letters provided by online platforms can help many people who need help. But free service means free from liability. China Legal Services Platform does not charge and there is also a risk warning and statement at the end of each legal advice letter, shows that this letter does not entail responsibility for any consequences.
According to the Chinese registered lawyers on the Q&A website Zhihu, such online legal advice platforms do not have much impact on lawyers' practice. This is because services such as the collection of evidence, the writing of legal documents, the presentation of lawyers in court, etc. can still only be provided by lawyers. And online legal platforms can only address simple issues of a common nature, they are generally services with modest fees and are not major areas of practice or service for lawyers.
This content has been updated on 02/22/2022 at 22 h 37 min.