Law at large underpins modern society, codifying and governing many aspects of citizens’ daily lives. Oftentimes, law is subject to interpretation, debate and challenges throughout various courts and jurisdictions. But in some other areas, law leaves little room for interpretation, and essentially aims to rigorously describe a computation, a decision procedure or, simply said, an algorithm.

The programming languages community has so far brought very few answers to the problem of having a transparent, accountable implementation of computational law. The current state of affairs is concerning: in many cases, human-critical systems are implemented using technology that is several decades old, resulting in e.g. the IRS relying on assembly code from the 60s or its French counterpart relying on a home-made language from the 90s with tens of thousands of global variables. For institutions stuck with this unfortunate status quo, consequences are many: legacy systems cannot be evolved, in spite of hundreds of millions of dollars spent on “modernization” budgets; mistakes are made and rarely noticed; automatic analyses remain elusive, meaning policymakers are “flying dark”; and in the worst case, as happened with the French military pay computation, families are on the verge of bankruptcy because of incorrect code. However, there is hope. Recent papers published at PL venues (A Modern Compiler for the French Tax Code, CC’21; Catala: a Programming Language for the Law, ICFP’21; Property conveyances as a programming language, Onward!’19), along with a recent NSF proposal for Designing Accountable Software Systems point to a reckoning in the broader scientific and PL community. The purpose of this workshop is to gather momentum and bring together a community that can advance the state of law, and society.

Call for submissions

This will be an informal workshop without any proceedings. As such, presenting already published or ongoing work is encouraged. Two types of submissions will be considered: extended abstracts (up to 3 pages without references) and short talk proposals (up to 1 page without references).

Topics of interest include, but are not limited to:

  • language design for legal matters;
  • static analysis of legal texts;
  • program synthesis and repair for legal software components;
  • formal modeling of legal semantics;
  • program verification for legal expert systems.

Submissions should be sent via the ProLaLa HotCRP instance.

Extended abstracts

The default submission is an extended abstract, which, if accepted, will result in a 25 min. presentation slot during the workshop.

Short talks proposals

Alternatively, for work that is very speculative or brief previews of ongoing work, we also offer the option of submitting short talks proposal, whose length shall not exceed 10 min.

Important dates

  • Submission deadline: Thursday, October 28th 2021 AoE
  • Notification of acceptance: Thursday, November 11th 2021
  • Workshop: Sunday, Jan 16th 2021

Questions? Use the ProLaLa contact form.