UCI Law Professor of Law Joshua Blank to Conduct Study on Use of Automated Legal Guidance by Federal Government Agencies


Joshua Blank portrait

Selected by the Administrative Conference of the United States

IRVINE, Calif. (June 2, 2021) — The University of California, Irvine School of Law (UCI Law), is pleased to announce that Joshua Blank, Professor of Law and Faculty Director of Strategic Initiatives at UCI Law, and his co-author, Professor Leigh Osofsky (University of North Carolina School of 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 explain the law to the public.  

“I am grateful to ACUS for the opportunity to study, along with my co-author, Professor Leigh Osofsky, how technology is changing the way federal agencies are communicating the law and to offer policy recommendations to federal government officials,” said Prof. Blank.

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.    

Professor Blank and Osofsky’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, Professors Blank and Osofsky 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 write a report that will offer analysis and policy recommendations, which will become the basis for subsequent ACUS committee meetings. In 2022, Blank and Osofsky 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 Blank and Osofsky’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, here.

More about Joshua Blank

Prof. Blank joined UCI Law in July 2018 as professor of law. In addition, as faculty director of strategic initiatives, he oversees UCI Law in NYC, an innovative program that supports students who are interested in exploring career paths in New York. Previously, he was a member of the full-time faculty of NYU School of Law, where he served as professor of tax law, vice dean for technology-enhanced education and faculty director of its graduate tax program.

Blank’s scholarship focuses on tax administration and compliance, taxpayer privacy, and taxation of business entities. At UCI Law, he teaches several tax law courses, including Federal Income Tax, Corporate Tax and Tax Practice & Procedure. His recent publications have appeared in Cornell Law Review, Yale Law & Policy Review, Emory Law JournalNew York University Law ReviewSouthern California Law Review, Tax Law Review, University of Pennsylvania Law Review, and UCLA Law Review, among others. He is a frequent contributor to BloombergCNNFortune, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal, among others.

Blank received a 2020 Teacher of the Year Award from the Association of American Law Schools, the 2017 Legal Teaching Award from the NYU School of Law Alumni Association, and the Podell Distinguished Teaching Award from NYU School of Law in 2014.

More about UCI Law and Artificial Intelligence and Emerging Technologies

UCI Law takes a unique pervasive approach to AI and emerging technologies in its curriculum. In addition to specialized courses and experiential learning opportunities, the law and policy implications of AI and emerging technologies are woven into UCI Law’s first year curriculum and a wide range of upper-division courses so that all UCI Law students understand these issues, are prepared to grapple with them in the real world, and ready to enter the legal profession of tomorrow.

The Law School continues to lead in the areas of scholarship, research, curriculum development, and the legal framework in relation to AI and emerging technologies. UCI Law has been hosting various events, public lectures and conferences on the topic of AI and emerging technologies.

UCI Law also received a grant in 2020 from the UCI Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research -- whose mission is to support and enhance the creative and scholarly activities of UCI faculty -- to help to continue UCI Law’s ongoing efforts to develop curriculum that incorporates AI and emerging technology issues. The grant is being used to support faculty members develop teaching materials that focus on AI across a variety of courses.

About the University of California, Irvine School of Law

The University of California, Irvine School of Law is a visionary law school that provides an innovative and comprehensive curriculum, prioritizes public service, and demonstrates a commitment to diversity within the legal profession. UCI Law students have completed more than 123,000 hours of pro bono work in the past decade. Forty-six percent of UCI Law’s graduates are students of color. At UCI Law, we are driven to improve our local, national, and global communities by grappling with important issues as scholars, as practitioners, and as teachers who are preparing the next generation of leaders. The collaborative and interdisciplinary community at UCI Law includes extraordinary students, world-renowned faculty, dedicated staff, engaged alumni, and enthusiastic supporters. More information on UCI Law is available here. Please follow us on Twitter @ucilaw and on Facebook @UCIrvineLaw.

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Mojgan Sherkat
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