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Current projects

The project AI4Lawyers is run by a consortium composed of the European Lawyers Foundation (ELF) and the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE). The project was awarded by the European Commission Directorate-General for Justice and Consumers, and will run for 24 months starting on 1st April 2020.

Current situation

Computational science has experienced significant growth since the second half of the last century. However, this growth has not been linear, and has increased at frenetic speed, bringing terms such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), blockchain or cloud computing into citizens’ daily lives. The development of computational science was not horizontal either (as it was originally mainly focused on military advancements), but it is now: it affects all sectors of society and of the economy, from improvements in agriculture and farming, to more sophisticated machines used in industry, to a real revolution in the services sector.

Justice is of course also highly influenced by computational science; for instance, blockchain could be used to ensure the legal validity that now is provided by notaries in some legal acts. In general terms, computational science provides many opportunities for the legal sector that could make a significant and positive impact in making justice cheaper and faster and, consequently, increasing and improving access to justice. Nevertheless, this is just one side of the coin, as the use of AI in justice also generates major challenges that could negatively impact citizens’ rights as well as lawyers’ abilities to meet their professional obligations.

A clear example is the safeguarding of professional secrecy, which guarantees the necessary openness and confidentiality of lawyer-client relations. The question also arises how phenomena like access to, and exploitation of, open data regarding judicial decisions, enabling predictive systems and analysis through algorithms, can be governed and then integrated into public policies.

Lawyers and law firms are already using IT back-office tools in their daily practice, tools used in connection with interfacing with governmental bodies, etc.

But there is not a coherent understanding of the "average state of the art" of IT capabilities of lawyers and law firms in the European Union, nor an overview of the opportunities and barriers regarding the use of natural language processing tools in small and medium sized law practices. Indeed, this is also closely linked with ongoing EU policy activities in the field of AI, such as the Communication from the European Commission on “Building trust in human-centric Artificial Intelligence” as well as the “Ethics Guidelines for Trustworthy AI” of the High-Level Expert Group on Artificial Intelligence, which proves the EU’s ambition to set a global standard for trustworthy AI. This project will contribute to engaging lawyers with these important developments.

Needs that the project aims to address

IT advances much faster than law does. This generates some problems (e.g. criminal codes may be under continual revision with the appearance of new IT-based crimes), but also creates a need for legal professionals to be up to date with the development of IT tools in their daily practice. These challenges are clear in relation to AI, and it is for this reason that the EU, in the e-Justice Action Plan for 2019-2023, considers AI “as one of the major developments in information and communication technologies in recent years and should be further developed in coming years. Its implications in the field of e-Justice need to be further defined”.

This need is specifically mentioned in relation to lawyers, as is also clear in the e-Justice Action plan, which considers as a priority (project listed as number 11) the “draft[ing] of a guide on the use of Artificial Intelligence by lawyers in the EU”. AI policy has long been on the agenda of the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE). Briefly, in addition to the CCBE conference on Artificial Intelligence and Humane Justice held in Lille in November 2018, the CCBE has contributed to the formulation of the European Ethical Charter on the Use of Artificial Intelligence in Judicial Systems and their Environment, adopted by the Council of Europe Commission for the Efficiency of Justice (CEPEJ) in December 2018. The CCBE is also a member of the Commission’s Expert Group on liability and new technologies, and in 2016 published an e-book entitled “Innovation and Future of the Legal Profession in Europe” which critically assesses and evaluates the opportunities and threats facing the legal profession and justice systems in the coming years.

The CCBE has identified three major needs that have to be addressed without delay, and that indeed constitute the main objects of this project. These three are the following:

  1. a detailed overview of "average state of the art" IT capabilities of lawyers and law firms in the European Union and a gap analysis using comparisons with other non-EU countries;
  2. an assessment of the opportunities and barriers in the use of natural language processing tools in small and medium sized law practices;
  3. guidance for EU lawyers and law firms on the use of AI in legal practice.

Major objectives to be attained

  • To create an overview of the ‘average state of the art’ of the IT capabilities of lawyers and law firms in the EU.
  • To identify the opportunities and barriers in the use of natural language processing tools in SME law practices.
  • The drafting of a guide on the use of AI by lawyers and law firms in the EU, as specifically mentioned as a priority in the European e-Justice Action Plan 2019-2023.
  • To keep European lawyers and law firms, Bars and Law Societies and other stakeholders informed about the state play of the project and its outcomes.
  • To promote the guide on the use of AI for EU lawyers and law firms by using the various partners’ communication tools, and by holding an event where the guide will be presented to these target groups.

Project’s impact

This project will be determinant in providing necessary help to lawyers and law firms in the understanding of the impact of AI and other novel IT technologies in their daily practice. Taking into account that not all lawyers and law firms in the EU have the same level of IT readiness, the guide may be a key element in changing the behaviour of those lawyers and law firms that see more dangers than benefits in the use of new technologies in their legal practice. This change of behaviour may contribute to a faster and cheaper justice that could be translated into better access to justice for citizens in various EU Member States. In any case, the guide will also be very useful for those lawyers and law firms whose level of expertise in the use of IT tools is more advanced than the average, since the guide will also cover best practice functionalities in the United Kingdom, United States and Canada.

The project includes innovative aspects, as it will be a serious attempt to deal with an issue that has to be addressed without delay and that can best be treated from an EU perspective. 

Context

On 27th May 2019, the Directorate-General for Justice and Consumers (DG JUST) of the European Commission (EC) published a tender notice on the “Development and Organisation of Training for Lawyers on Anti-money Laundering and Counter Terrorist Financing (AML-CTF) Rules at EU Level”. This tender was awarded to a consortium composed of the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE) and the European Lawyers Foundation (ELF)  with an outstanding score of 92 out of 100 points.

AML-CTF is a clear priority for the CCBE, which has a Committee on Anti-Money Laundering that has been promoting policy positions on behalf of European lawyers for years.

ELF provides training for EU lawyers in various fields of EU law and has good experience in knowing what the needs of EU lawyers are regarding training. 

The project will last for 24 months and officially started on 18 November 2019. A kick-off meeting with EC officials took place on 2nd December 2019.

Objectives

The general objective of the project is training in, raising awareness of and promotion of the key principles and concepts of the EU AML-CTF rules among lawyers. The project will analyse, assess and support lawyers’ needs by increasing their awareness of their role and obligations in the fight against money laundering and financing of terrorism under the Directives.

The project activities are aimed at helping lawyers understand how they can best: 

  • Access and understand relevant AML/CTF obligations; reflect on the ways lawyers and law firms may be misused in the context of money laundering and terrorist financing. 
  • Reflect on practices lawyers and law firms should adopt in their particular jurisdiction and in accordance with the relevant bar rules, to ensure the highest ethical standards of the profession are maintained.
  • Identify the problems that may arise in the interpretation of specific provisions in the light of hypothetical and actual cases and in view, in particular, of the continuity of their business relationships with their clients and other considerations; 

Project activities

The project is divided into three main sets of activities:

  1. Development of a strategy for training lawyers on their obligations under AML/CTF Directives: this will be composed of sub-activities such as the drafting of a Training Need Assessment and the drafting of an overall strategy, which will include also the relevant AML/CTF context (Including legislation and case-law). 
  2. Production of an EU-level training programme (TP): the TP will be complemented by a manual for trainers (which will allow trainers to organise successful training for lawyers on AML/CTF) and a user’s manual (which will contain relevant information for lawyers).
  3. Training activities: two kind of activities will take place: 
    • Training for trainers: a group of 15 trainers coming from different EU jurisdictions will be trained at an event in Brussels. The objective is to give these trainers the opportunity to re-use the training modules presented to them and adapt them to their own training activities and national specificities.
    • Regional cross-border training activities: three regional seminars will be organised in three different EU Member States to train lawyers on AML/CTF on the basis of the TP. Lawyers from different Member States will be selected and will be grouped into one of the 3 training seminars. Participants will have their travel and accommodation costs reimbursed by the project. In addition to geographical representation, the project will focus on ensuring the participation of lawyers in terms of gender balance and representation of big, medium and small law firms and self-employed lawyers. 

All these activities will be supported by comprehensive dissemination over the duration of   the project. Information about the project will be provided through various communication tools such as a dedicated website (www.AML4lawyers.eu, available soon), the use of social media (mainly the CCBE and ELF’s LinkedIn and Twitter accounts) and the CCBE’s e-newsletter CCBE-info. National Bars and Law Societies will be kept informed through the information presented to them regularly at CCBE Standing Committees and Plenary Sessions. 

Disclaimer

This information has been produced under a contract with the European Union (Ref.: JUST/2018/JACC/PR/CRIM/018)  and does not represent the official opinion of the European Commission. Neither the Commission nor any person acting on the Commission’s behalf may be held responsible for the use which may be made of the information contained therein.

‘European Lawyers in Lesvos’ is a joint-project between the CCBE and the DAV (German Bar Association), run in close cooperation with the Greek Bars, which was launched in July 2016, and is expected to last for one year. Its aim is to send volunteer European asylum lawyers to the island of Lesvos to provide preliminary legal assistance to individuals requiring international protection.

More information about the project is available here.


Past projects

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The recognition of foreign training activities for lawyers (i.e. training pursued by EU lawyers in a Member State other than the one where they are registered) is an issue discussed for some years by the Training Committee.

In February 2017, the CCBE Memorandum on Mutual Recognition of Lawyers’ Cross-Border Continuing Professional Development, was signed by 40 European Bars and Law Societies. The Memorandum was an important step towards mutual recognition. Through this Memorandum the signatory parties agreed that:

“The number of CPD course hours attended or CPD credits of the training courses obtained by lawyers enrolled in a Bar or Law Society of a member country, should be considered in their signatory jurisdiction of origin to help fulfil their requirements of CPD obligations, in accordance with national, regional or local rules or regulations and without prejudice to each national, regional or local evaluation system.”

Major objectives and phases of REFOTRA project

The project was divided into 3 different phases, and each phase dealt with an important objective:

  1. to complete the research undertaken by the CCBE in 2015 and 2016 on national mandatory continuing training regimes in order to have a full understanding of the current situation of mutual recognition of cross-border training in EU Member States;
  2. to produce recommendations;
  3. to evaluate with Bars and Law Societies of some EU Member States as to how recognition based on the recommendation(s) would work.

In the margins of the Phase 1 of the project REFOTRA questionnaire on continuing legal education was developed by a core group, it was supported by the Training committee of CCBE and it was sent to CCBE member Bars on 1 October 2018.

The results of the questionnaire were compiled in the Assessment report on the situation in EU and EEA Member States regarding recognition of foreign training. The report was presented for information to the CCBE Standing committee on 29 March 2019.

The CCBE’s recommendations on solutions to facilitate the recognition of cross-border training were approved in July 2019 as a result of the Phase 2.

During the Phase 3 of the project the proposed certificate template for cross-border CLE training was tested by volunteer Bars, Law Societies and training providers. 

According to the Grant agreement signed with the EC, at least the three bars participating throughout the project in the core project team would participate in the test phase. These bars were:

  • Ireland - Law Society of Ireland
  • Italy - Consiglio Nazionale Forense (CNF)  
  • Poland - Krajowa Izba Radców Prawnych - The National Bar Council of Attorneys-at-Law (KIRP)

An invitation went out to other bars to join the test as well, and there was a positive response from several Bars: 

  • Belgium - Barreau de Bruxelles (Ordre Français) – French-speaking Bar of Brussels
  • Finland - Finnish Bar Association
  • Germany (Rechtsanwaltskammer Frankfurt am Main – Frankfurt Bar; Rechtsanwaltskammer München – Munich Bar; Rechtsanwaltskammer Köln – Cologne Bar)
  • United Kingdom (Faculty of Advocates, Scotland; Law Society of England and Wales)

In addition, the International Association of Young Lawyers (AIJA) participated through the issue of template certificates to participants at their annual conference in Rome in September 2019.

There were two kinds of test undertaken during Phase 3 – real testing and simulated testing (because of concerns that not sufficient number of real template certificates would be returned within the short period during which the test ran).

The number of certificates used as well as feedback received was assessed. As a result, the Phase 3 evaluation report was prepared with conclusion “in the light of the positive experiences reported during the project’s test phase, and if individual bars decide to support it, the REFOTRA certificate template is suggested for use to facilitate the recognition of cross-border continuing legal education within the EU”.

This document was agreed by the CCBE Training committee and presented to the Standing committee of the CCBE for information on 26 June 2020.

The Find-A-Lawyer 3 project (FAL 3) started on 15 October 2015 and will run for 18 months. FAL 3 will offer the necessary resources for the CCBE to focus on improvements in the FAL 1 Search Engine, the lawyer-search function now housed on the European Commission’s e-justice portal. It will also provide resources for a feasibility study about new functionalities which currently appear in other lawyers’ search engines. At the same time, FAL 3 will fill in the time gap between the delivery of the FAL 2 tool (verification of a lawyer’s role in electronic proceedings) and the go-live date of that project - during that period, the CCBE will undertake the hosting of FAL 2, will provide helpdesk support to participating bars and newcomers, and will perform integration testing with other electronic systems such as e-CODEX. During the FAL 3 implementation period, the CCBE will also attempt to achieve full coverage of FAL 1 and majority coverage among its member bars of FAL 2.

The CCBE, together with the European Lawyers’ Foundation, is working on a project which aims at contributing to the correct and consistent implementation of the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) again from the point of view of defence practitioners. In particular, the project is focusing on the following objectives:

  • Identification of the implementation at national level of the Framework Decision 2002/584/JHA on the European Arrest Warrant in all EU Member States.
  • Identification of good practices carried out in the 28 Member States in order to ensure defence rights
  • Presentation of recommendations focused on the improvement of defence rights in EAW cases

The project aims to provide a comprehensive analysis of the state of play on the implementation of the EAW in the different Member States from the point of view of the defence. The project aims to identify a catalogue of good practices in EAW proceedings in different Member States that can be used by authorities and the defence at a national level to assist with any existing problems. The project will include recommendations which could be of use to the EU institutions when considering future legislation. In any case, the recommendations will also deal with short-term actions that can assist defence rights in EAW proceedings.

The project aims to promote the practical use of, and to share best practice on the organisational, technical and legal aspects of, cross-border videoconferencing in order to help improve the overall functioning of e-Justice systems in Member States and at European level. The project is coordinated by the Austrian Ministry of Justice. The CCBE’s expertise in criminal and civil law allows it to identify cases that benefit from cross-border video-conferencing, and the CCBE seeks to ensure compliance with procedural rights and duties of the parties.

The project is due to end in September 2016.

EVIDENCE aims at providing a road map (guidelines, recommendations, and technical standards) for developing the missing Common European Framework for the systematic and uniform application of new technologies in the collection, use and exchange of evidence. The road map will incorporate standardised solutions enabling more efficient regulation, treatment and exchange of digital evidence by law enforcement agencies as well as judges, prosecutors and lawyers practising in the criminal field. The CCBE contributed to the elaboration of e.g. data protection issues, mapping of obstacles and facilitating factors, and existing standards for treatment and exchange of electronic evidence.

The project is due to end in September 2016.

The CCBE, together with the European Lawyers’ Foundation, worked on a project which aimed at achieving a comprehensive analysis of the implementation at a national level (in the countries where the Directives apply) of the following three Directives (from the point of view of defence practitioners):

  • Directive 2010/64 on the right to interpretation and translation in criminal proceedings;
  • Directive 2012/13) on the Right to information in criminal proceedings; and
  • Directive 2013/48 on the right of access to a lawyer in criminal proceedings and in European arrest warrant proceedings, and on the right to have a third party informed upon deprivation of liberty and to communicate with third persons and with consular authorities while deprived of liberty.

The project lasted from 15 April 2015 to 14 April 2016. The report itself is 80 pages long and the annexes (which contain the original responses to the questionnaires) are a further 270 pages.

The report contains an analysis of the Directives and identifies good practices and recommendations (see pages 6-9 for the recommendations).

The full report can be found here.

The CCBE participated in the e-CODEX project which, among other things, aimed at linking national e-justice systems to each other to permit electronic communication exchange to facilitate the participation of lawyers in cross-border e-proceedings. In 2015, e-CODEX further developed its pilot phase and increased the testing of its use cases. The CCBE initiated a new use case in e-CODEX on lawyer-to-court communication, i.e. the European Payment Order (EPO), sent by lawyers. This use case was linked to the FAL 2 project, since the electronic identity of the lawyers sending the EPO has to be validated.

The project ended in June 2016.

More information about the project can be found here.


European Lawyers Foundation

The European lawyers foundation: an organisation for the benefit of Bars and Lawyers of the EU