Doctoral thesis "Legal information as a tool - Where legal sources meet technology and their users”

The doctoral project deals with legal information retrieval, the concept of legal information within the framework of the doctrine of legal sources and the information-seeking behaviour of lawyers.

Legal information (Rechtsinformation, rättsinformation) and legal sources (Rechtsquellen, rättskällor) have been one of the foundations of the working method of lawyers for a very long time. The necessity of references to specific published material implies a need to retrieve these sources effectively, which technology has had an immense impact on. Unfortunately, however, information retrieval (IR) has been commercialised and question of efficiency and user friendliness partly replaced the doctrine of legal sources.

A discrepancy between solutions for legal information retrieval and the idea of a generally accepted authoritative doctrine of legal sources can be noticed. An example for this is that lawyers think in concepts and ideas when searching for legal material, while the doctrine of legal sources is built upon the principle that certain types of documents are of higher value than others depending on the origin of the document. Last but not least, information retrieval systems take advantage of specific words in legal documents and analyse their content through mathematical operations. The common denominator for concepts, documents and mathematics, however, remains to become clearer.

Many of the challenges lie outside the legal area and concern the ambiguity of language, changes in search algorithms and information anxiety in most users nowadays. Others, such as linearity of legal publications and conception of information units in law, concern the core of any legal working process. Due to the diversity of these matters, finding a one-fits-all solution will prove difficult. Potential paths towards a common denominator include, nevertheless, networked legal information and its visualisation as well as legal snippets as information units. These tools may help to create context in legal information retrieval which will be one of the main tasks in the 21st century.