How the Chinese are light years ahead

As part of our LegalTech events and seminars, we’ve interacted with innovators, renovators and disruptors from across global ecosystems. As part of this journey, we wanted to start a blog series providing insights into what we’ve learnt and where we see the future innovation journey heading.

We start with a view on how judiciaries are being modernised across the globe in particular with China, and its innovation landscape being our first port of call.

We were introduced to the Supreme People’s Court of the People’s Republic of China last year, where we discussed at length their participation in our events and specific topics to be covered. We were stunned with the maturity of China’s modernisation and adoption of technology across its justice system. One of the first steps of implementing Smart Courts technology started in 2012 where their courts went through their first, second and third generation of centric based data which they categorised by computer, network, data, and knowledge, respectively.

In the Chinese courts great importance is paid to informatization and judicial reform. At a keynote in our GCC LegalTech Summit, (Dubai, November 2019), the Deputy Director of the Information Center at the Supreme People’s Court Sun Fuhui, described these as the “two wheels or two wings of the judicial cause of the people’s courts.”

As some of you will have already seen the Forte Markets Justice Tech & Embracing Change webinar, hosted recently, you would have heard from Yu Chau, Chief Engineer from the Supreme People’s Court, providing details on how millions of legal cases are now being decided by internet courts. Their goal of the construction of the Smart Courts to promote the modernization of the judicial system and judicial capacity, seems to be well on track to being a resounding success, in record time. China has done really well in realizing a more convenient court service for its citizens, ensuring they open up access to justice to all, use intelligent trials as well as efficient enforcement, and the scientific management and accurate decision-making through its ambitious programme of change. We are not simply talking about renovating an existing process by introducing Zoom or MS Teams to facilitate an online hearing. This is a real and fascinating innovation, of which the Chinese should be super proud of.

Yu Chau, discussed the process in China, giving us an insight into what goes on under the hood of this exciting modernization initiative. The Smart Courts of China operates a three-stage process: interconnectivity, transparency and intelligence.

With Interconnectivity, in order to realize the network interconnection and data exchange, China have designed and formed the standard system for people’s court informatization according to the guiding ideology of “system engineering, standards first”. China has successively released 99 standards and specifications, which can be divided into three main categories, 1) technology and management, 2) application, security and infrastructure technology, 3) operation and maintenance management.

Transparency, In order to evaluate the construction of the Smart Courts objectively, China has designed and released the Smart Courts Evaluation Index System, which sets out 68 indices from six aspects to carry out the evaluation in courts at all levels, including planning, basic support, networking transparency application, intelligence construction effects and comprehensive support ability. This helps them identify achievements and highlights for promotion, and to capture shortcomings and deficiencies to enable a continuous improvement approach. This ensures closed-loop from planning, standards, to construction, and finally to evaluation.

Intelligence, creating a comprehensive intelligent service defining a clear orientation and demonstrating promising prospects, China has been able to implement intelligence assistance by adopting artificial intelligence, batch revision and other technologies. For example, the court clerk now only needs a small amount of modification effort to achieve one complete record of a court hearing. This improves the efficiency of the hearing and significantly reduces the work load of clerks, resulting in clear benefits

A look back at the figures from the pandemic have shown just how the Smart Courts are reinventing the whole process and how it’s being embraced. The Smart Courts have shown strength by processing the filing of 10 million cases, of which 2 million were reported only retrospectively. This shows a circa 20% increase in terms of last year’s rate which stood at 1.7 million. To help paint a picture of the immense size of the judiciary you have to understand that there are more than 3,500 courts and 10,000 tribunals in China. Add to this the six circuit courts and the intellectual property court, and then ensuring they are all connected to the dedicated court network “one shared network” for case handling is quite an achievement.

Through this interconnectivity and the China Court Hearing Openness Online platform, tens of thousands of court hearings are webcast daily, and are all receiving real-time supervision inside and outside the courts. The idea of innovation is great, the support from the top is even better, but execution is key. You can have the best idea, but not being to implement it effectively just leaves you with a white elephant. So, results and numbers are key to justify what you’ve done to date and have the momentum to continue.

So, when looking at the numbers you they speak for themselves. There has been over 5.5 million court hearings webcast live as of the end of 2019, and a massive 20.3 billion views. Now that does call for a round of applause.

The China Court Hearing Openness Online platform for the end user ensures information is published in a unified and standardized form. The litigants can use this platform to view the progress of a case. Some staggering numbers on how well this platform is used. As of the end of last year China’s Judicial Process Information Online had published 1.14 billion pieces of case information and received more than 120 million visits.

Surely with these statistics it is only a matter of time until Smart Courts are adopted on a global scale? However, to what extent and how far are we willing to push the boundaries of technology within law is yet to be tested. We are still at the very early stages of innovation and technology in law, we’ve been discussion the LegalTech, or if you prefer LawTech 101s for a number of years and seem to be struggling to get out of that phase.

To finish and final thoughts do we have to continue to wrap technology around existing, and dated (or out dated rather) court processes, or should we be more radical and reinvent the landscape?

Stay posted for part two of this blog series, as we look closer to home, and what the UK is doing to help innovate the judiciary.

We’re proud to announce The Global Innovation Journey Online 2020. The event will bring together leading industry practitioners and academics from across the world to discuss the latest insight and use cases. Forte Markets will host a number of panels, with a keynote on the hour, every hour, for 72 hours to cove numerous international time zones. Register your interest today to avoid disappointment.