ACUS Adopts Automated Legal Guidance Recommendations Based on Report by Professors Leigh Osofsky and Joshua Blank

July 11, 2022
Leigh Osofsky
Leigh Osofsky

The University of North Carolina School of Law (Carolina Law) and the University of California, Irvine School of Law (UCI Law), are pleased to announce that the Administrative Conference of the United States (ACUS) has adopted recommendations regarding the use of automated legal guidance at federal agencies based on a study and report by Leigh Osofsky, William D. Spry III Distinguished Professor of Law and associate dean for faculty research at Carolina Law and her co-author, Joshua Blank, professor of law and faculty director of strategic initiatives at UCI Law. 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.

“My co-author, Josh Blank, and I were honored to have the opportunity to build on our work regarding automated legal guidance through this ACUS study. We believe the recommendations that ACUS adopted will help guide governments as they continue to automate their guidance-giving functions in the future,” said Osofsky.

Joshua Blank

In June 2021, ACUS selected Osofsky and Blank to conduct a study on U.S. federal government agencies’ use of automated tools — such as chatbots, virtual assistants, and artificial intelligence — to explain the law to the public.  Some examples of automated legal guidance tools are the IRS’s “Interactive Tax Assistant,” the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ “Emma” and the U.S. Department of Education’s “Aidan.”  During the past year, Osofsky and Blank met 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.  Following their interviews, Osofsky and Blank co-authored a report and participated in the drafting of official ACUS recommendations based on proposals they offered in their report. A public website for the project, which contains the report, recommendations, and videos of meetings, is available here.

On June 16, 2022, the full ACUS Assembly met in Washington, D.C. The Assembly voted to adopt 20 policy recommendations based on Osofsky and Blank’s report. The recommendations are categorized into different topics regarding the use of automated legal guidance by U.S. federal agencies, including design and management, accessibility, transparency, and reliance. Following the formal adoption by ACUS, the recommendations were published in the Federal Register and circulated to the federal agencies.

Osofsky and Blank’s study and report build upon their research in several academic articles, including: Automated Agencies, forthcoming in Minnesota Law ReviewAutomated Legal Guidance, published in Cornell Law Review in 2021; The Inequity of Informal Guidance, published in Vanderbilt Law Review in 2022; and Legal Calculators and the Tax System, published in the Ohio State Technology Law Journal in 2020.