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date: 24 June 2021

Abstract and Keywords

Lawyers and citizens increasingly engage with law through technology intermediaries. For example, to declare their taxes, they consult tax software rather than tax legislation. This greater role of legal technology raises new issues for bilingual jurisdictions. In Canada, for instance, federal legislation is not translated but simultaneously codrafted by francophone and anglophone lawyers, resulting in small differences in the expression of the law and occasional inconsistencies. This contribution showcases how these differences can affect legal technology applications. Depending on the language they work with, lawyers may encode different interpretations in software, and algorithms may yield different results. Using a bilingual corpus of 3,000 Canadian federal regulations as a case study, the authors demonstrate that the same artificial intelligence techniques applied to the same legal texts in different languages yield different results. As a consequence, they argue that legal technology cannot simply be developed for one language and then translated to another language. Instead, it has to be “codeveloped” for different languages, similar to how legislation can be “codrafted.”

Keywords: legislative drafting, translation, bilingualism, legal technology, corpus analysis, artificial intelligence

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