HvA United

Ivar Timmer tenure-track professor Legal Management & Technology

23 aug 2021 09:00

The Executive Board of AUAS has appointed Ivar Timmer tenure-track professor of Legal Management & Technology effective August 1st 2021. Timmer researches how technology can be used meaningfully and responsibly in legal practice. AUAS’s Legal Tech Lab, to which a large number of partner organisations from all areas of the legal profession are affiliated, offers a practice-oriented research environment.

The purpose of the professorship is to develop knowledge of the responsible use of technology in support of legal processes such as permit allocation, the processing of objections, contracting and legal advice. The specialist software technology with which this is done is known as ‘legal tech’.

Timmer: “I am very happy that, thanks to this appointment, I will be able to carry out more intensive research into the risks and opportunities involved in the use of technology in legal practice. Well-designed technology can increase the accessibility of the law and make the work of legal professionals more effective and efficient. Poorly designed technology, on the other hand, does exactly the opposite: this was painfully obvious in the child benefits scandal. Research into the preconditions for the good use of technology in legal practice is therefore extremely important and relevant.”

Ivar Timmer

Gigabytes worth of documents

A great deal of attention in this research is devoted to the use of systems for the support of decision-making (‘legal decision trees’) that can be used to support legal advice or the drafting of documents. Another major research focus is the opportunities offered by software for the analysis of large quantities of documentation.

Timmer: “In relation to decision-making support systems, in recent years we have entered into an intensive cooperation with various local and provincial authorities. In the case of the City of Amsterdam, for example, this has led to systems that are able to give citizens a reliable indication of their legal position in an objection procedure. This means citizens are able to quickly find out where they stand. There are many possibilities for the application of these kinds of systems, both in the support of the provision of services to civilians and for internal use within the local authority. In the years ahead, we will also investigate how and where software can be meaningfully used for large-scale document searches within organisations. This type of software is becoming ever more important, as it regularly happens in legal practice that gigabytes or even terabytes of information have to be searched through during an investigation. We will help organisations address the question of how to meaningfully and responsibly use such technology.”

Bachelor’s programme for tomorrow’s lawyers

Legal Tech is also a major theme in AUAS’s teaching. Timmer previously received a Comenius grant for teaching innovation in Legal Tech and was among those taking the initiative for the establishment of the Legal Tech Alliance, which sees all Dutch Bachelor’s of Law programmes cooperate on the improvement of education in technology for Bachelor’s degree-level legal professionals.

“Within the Bachelor’s degree programme in Law, we have already increased attention to technology greatly in recent years. We believe that it is essential that modern legal professionals have a knowledge of technology and understand, at least in general terms, what is going on ‘under the hood’.”

Artificial intelligence

The professorship’s research is part of the Centre of Expertise Applied Artificial Intelligence (CoE AAI) through the Legal Tech Lab (information in Dutch). Timmer: “Many legal tech applications are in fact applications of artificial intelligence, which makes the connection to AAI a logical one. On the basis of our participation in the Centre of Expertise, we are able to also play a connecting role to other programmes wanting to work on their students’ AI readiness.”

Tenure-track professor

AUAS is the first university of applied sciences in the Netherlands to appoint tenure-track professors. Tenure-track professors are given the scope and facilities to shape a research programme over a five-year period, during which time they can further develop as an authority in their professional field. Once the five years are up, successful programmes are given a firm place within AUAS’ research programming.