UNC School of Law is pleased to announce that Leigh Osofsky, William D. Spry III Distinguished Professor of Law and associate dean for faculty development, and her co-author, Joshua Blank, professor of law and faculty director of strategic initiatives at the University of California, Irvine School of Law (UCI Law), have been selected by the Administrative Conference of the United States (ACUS) to conduct a study of U.S. federal government agencies’ use of automated tools — such as chatbots, virtual assistants, and artificial intelligence — to provide legal guidance to the public.
“I am excited to have the opportunity to build on my prior work with my colleague, Josh Blank, to explore the government’s automation of legal guidance,” says Osofsky. “This is a fast-growing area with potential to fundamentally change how the public interacts with the government, and I believe this project will give us a great opportunity to set a good foundation for government practice.”
ACUS is an independent federal agency of the U.S. government charged with convening expert representatives from the public and private sectors to recommend improvements to administrative process and procedure. The ACUS Assembly is comprised of the chairman, 10 council members, 50 government members and 40 public members. Government members are agency heads or their designees drawn from a wide array of federal agencies. Public members are academics, practicing lawyers, and other experts in administrative procedure drawn from the private sector.
Osofsky and Blank’s study will build upon their research in several of their recent academic articles, including Automated Legal Guidance, which was published in Cornell Law Review earlier this year, and Legal Calculators and the Tax System, which was published in the Ohio State Technology Law Journal in 2020. Their articles offered the first critiques of governments’ use of online tools and other technology, such as the Internal Revenue Service’s Interactive Tax Assistant, as a means of delivering administrative guidance to the public.
In their project for ACUS, Osofsky and Blank will meet with agency officials across the federal government to study how agencies are currently using automated tools and other forms of artificial intelligence to help members of the public comply with the law. After they conduct their review, they will submit a report offering analysis and policy recommendations, which will become the basis for subsequent ACUS committee meetings. In 2022, Osofsky and Blank will attend several meetings where ACUS members and members of the public may offer comments on their draft report. In June 2022, they will present their final report to the full ACUS Assembly in Washington, DC. If ACUS adopts Osofsky and Blank’s report and recommendations, it will publish the recommendations in the Federal Register and circulate them to the federal agencies. ACUS has launched a public website for the project, which will be updated with content over the next 18 months.
“When a member of our faculty is able to leverage their research and scholarship in a way that molds policy that affects public interaction with the government, we are beyond proud,” says Martin H. Brinkley ’92, dean and Arch T. Allen Distinguished Professor of Law. “Leigh is an exemplary faculty member whose talent shines inside and outside the classroom.”