A new study shows: The Federal Republic of Germany is increasingly falling behind when it comes to digitizing its judicial system. Singapore, Canada, Austria and the UK are all well ahead of Germany.

Hesse’s Justice Minister Eva Kühne-Hörmann recently lost her job. The reason: hesitant action in the digitization of the judiciary. A recent study shows that this process is progressing too slowly, not only in Hesse but throughout Germany. It compares the Federal Republic with leading countries and paints an alarming picture. Outdated technologies, inconsistent regulations in the federal states and an antiquated understanding of data protection make Germany a laggard in an international comparison.

About the study

The study was conducted by Bucerius Law School in collaboration with the Boston Consulting Group and the Legal Tech Association. It is based on around 50 interviews with various experts from different fields. Respondents included judges, court IT managers, government officials and CEOs of trade associations and insurance companies.

Germany far behind

The results are alarming. Germany lags behind other countries in digitization by 10 to 15 years. According to the study, this is primarily due to a long-outdated understanding of data protection, a general rejection of technology and fear of personal disadvantages. “Many employees are skeptical of technical innovations or reject them outright,” the study states. In addition, the existing technical solutions are comparatively little represented, outdated or not sufficiently user-oriented.

Singapore, Canada and Austria are pioneers

Canada shows how it can be done. Since 2012, British Columbia has had an online tribunal for civil cases that operates completely digitally. Some services can even be operated via smartphone. Austria is taking a similar approach. Since the 1990s, court information and orders have been transmitted digitally to participants in the so-called ERV procedure. Since 2000, electronic legal transactions have even been mandatory.

What needs to change?

Germany needs to rethink and allocate considerable budgetary resources to catch up on the several-year backlog, the study’s authors advise. Of particular importance, they say, is increasing the efficiency of the courts, a clear commitment to user orientation, and the prompt introduction of data analysis to identify the most pressing digitization problems. Dirk Hartung, co-founder of the European LegalTech Association, adds: “Continuing as before is not a good option.

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