Is technology catching up with justice? 3 experts look into this subject

Is technology catching up with justice? 3 experts look into this subject

In the Fokus Legal Success (in De Standaard, a quality Belgian newspaper),current issues within the world of legal are highlighted with solution-oriented content. We are proud that Hans Van Heghe (Managing Director, Knowliah) is part of the expert panel on Legal Tech.

Innovative and disruptive developments are also penetrating our legal sector. Artificial intelligence will certainly make the slow and cumbersome legal machine run faster in the future. Digitisation will automate and facilitate many transactions, but at the same time requires a whole new legal framework.

Is technology catching up with justice? Read different visions from 3 experts within the field.


Where does legal tech stand today in your home country, Belgium?

Hans Van Heghe (Managing Director, Knowliah):

“The technological developments are now also noticeable in the legal sector. About seven years ago in Belgium the real interest arose and you saw a lot of start-ups dedicated to the digitization of legal services. You have to make a distinction here between applications for law firms and the legal departments of companies; both need their own specific interpretation. Many relatively young players concentrate on a small domain. We, at Knowliah, offer a total package with solutions such as litigation management, contract creation and generation, compliance monitoring, text analytics, etc. to name a few, which is why we have international recognition.”

Anne Van de Vijver (Professor Faculty of Law – UA – DigiTax Research Centre):

“Not only companies but also tax administrations worldwide are innovating to improve the service to taxpayers. Belgium is doing well with MyMinfin, Fisconetplus, eBox and Biztax, among others. In addition, the administration uses data analysis in the fight against tax fraud. Even more disruptive innovation is on the horizon. The OECD is thinking of an app that registers all relevant events of the taxpayer: working, buying a house, starting a family… A digital identity links the taxpayer to these digital data via biometric characteristics. This allows the app to update tax status in real time, calculate and pay taxes.”

Erik De Herdt (CEO –

“Compared to other European countries, the Belgian legal world remains quite conservative. The increasing importance of legal tech is recognised, but real success stories remain to be found. You do see that classic players who have been around for a long time are investing in digitisation. On the other hand, many start-ups are innovating with AI technology, but then more in verticals, such as corporate finance, document management or community management. is the pioneer in the Belgian legal tech market that manages to successfully deploy AI. Since 2017, the sector has experienced strong growth, but the number of pure AI companies is stagnating. Now consultancy in legal tech is starting to break through.”

Is there a focus on cybersecurity and privacy in this digital evolution?

Hans Van Heghe (Managing Director, Knowliah)

“Absolutely. There isn’t a single prospect or customer who doesn’t ask questions about this. So you can clearly see, and rightly so, that there is a great concern about security and privacy, but on the other hand you can see that it is not a priority for many companies, often for budgetary reasons. Also, a great deal of confidence in the most obvious systems such as intranet or cloud storage systems also plays a ​role. However, these systems are ​not at all conclusive. In Flanders, Belgium, you already have advanced technology for the automatic identification and preventing leaks of private data. Our file management systems guarantee a higher degree of security and privacy.”

Anne Van de Vijver (Professor Faculty of Law – UA – DigiTax Research Centre):

“Due to the enormous amounts of data, cybersecurity must receive more attention. After all, data leaks make identity theft possible. The way in which the administrations collect data also raises questions about privacy. Are they allowed to automatically collect data on public websites? In France, web scraping is only allowed for publicly available information on websites that do not require registration. The risk models for fraud detection are also not without danger for our fundamental rights. I myself advocate public algorithm registers in which the government explains which datasets are used, describes the architecture of the model and clarifies how human supervision is guaranteed.”

Erik De Herdt (CEO –

“The AVG (General Data Protection Regulation) or GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) brought about a few years ago. As a result of technological evolution, we are now faced with a new reality, especially in the justice system, where the law requires verdicts and judgements to be made public. The protection of personal data is a prime issue here. For what the court clerk still does manually today, we have, for example, developed an innovative tool to anonymise judgments and, via algorithms, a way to pseudonymise personal data so that the text remains legible. The necessary attention is also being paid to cybersecurity.

Will all lawyers have to become IT specialists in the future?

Hans Van Heghe (Managing Director, Knowliah):

“There is a need for cross-fertilisation: lawyers or legal professionals need to have a sound basic knowledge of IT, while IT specialists need to understand the needs for digitalisation within the legal world. However, the pressure for the lawyer to acquire more IT knowledge is only half of the picture. Legal tech companies are constantly looking for ways to make IT complexity easier for the professional and the end user. Taking on a pioneering role as a lawyer is not possible without the necessary IT expertise. But in the legal text world we need to let go the AI hype; we have been active in AI for nearly twenty years, but also in AI, but also in NLP (Natural Language Processing),mathematics and cognitive computing.”

Anne Van de Vijver (Professor Faculty of Law – UA – DigiTax Research Centre):

“It is important for lawyers to acquire a basic knowledge of technology, so that they can better use legal technology for innovation in the administration of justice and assess the pitfalls. Human scrutiny and a critical mindset remain extremely important to safeguard our fundamental rights. To inspire innovative creativity and cultivate awareness, the Faculty of Law of the University of Antwerp organises the annual international Legal Technology & Legal Innovation Summer School in September. Participants learn the basics of the Python programming language, apply it to legal topics, and follow workshops on how legal technology can contribute to innovation.”

Erik De Herdt (CEO –

“Lawyers especially need to be able to cope with modern technology. The aim of legal tech is to make everything in the administration of justice more user-friendly and transparent, both for the general public and for professionals. To function as a lawyer in a technological society requires more than a thorough knowledge of law. Our universities offer various courses on technology and law. It is important to gain an understanding of disruptive technological innovations and to consider their relevance to law and legal practice. A lawyer must be able to reflect on the social impact and legal implications of the technological innovation.”

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