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


Prof. Joshua Blank

IRVINE, Calif. (July 11, 2022) — The University of California, Irvine School of Law (UCI Law), is 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 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).  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.

“It was an honor to conduct this study for ACUS, along with my co-author, Professor Leigh Osofsky, on the use of automated legal guidance at U.S. federal agencies and to participate in the recommendation process.  I am grateful to ACUS for the opportunity and look forward to continuing our research,” said Blank.

In June 2021, ACUS selected Professors Blank and Osofsky 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, Blank and Osofsky 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, Blank and Osofsky 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 twenty policy recommendations based on Professors Blank and Osofsky’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.

Professors Blank and Osofsky’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. 

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 top visionary law school that provides an innovative and comprehensive curriculum, prioritizes public service, and demonstrates a commitment to diversity and inclusion within the legal profession. UCI Law students have completed more than 135,000 hours of pro bono work since 2009. Forty-eight percent of UCI Law’s J.D. graduates are people 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 Facebook @UCIrvineLaw.