ICLR&D is the research division within the Incorporated Council of Law Reporting for England and Wales (“ICLR”). It was formed to provide ICLR with the resources it would need to begin carrying out more advanced research in the field of legal informatics.

Blackstone is an experimental project to investigate the ways in natural language processing can be used to impose control and structure on legal content generated in uncontrolled environments. The project’s deliverable is an open source piece of software, the Blackstone library, that allows researchers and engineers to automatically extract information from long, unstructured legal texts (such as judgments, skeleton arguments, scholarly articles, Law Commission reports, pleadings etc.)

Blackstone is founded on the assumption that long and unstructured legal texts contain elements and characteristics that can be harnessed in a systematic way to improve our understanding of the meaning of the text and how it might fit into a larger corpus of text.

Blackstone’s objective is to develop a free and open source system for the extraction of this sort of information from unstructured legal texts. To frame the problem a different way: we know that there is lots of useful information buried in legal texts, so how can be go about extracting it automatically?

Read more about ICLR&D and a full explanation of the history, thinking behind, and development of Blackstone, on the ICLR&D blog.