Welcome to the Digital Legal Systems Lab

The Lab will be an independent institution set up to foster collaboration between people in physical and digital settings. The Lab will receive suggested case studies from people with real problems and real opportunities.

Seated person thinking

The common theme through these case studies will be that they involve the use of digital systems to enable people to do tasks the law requires them to do.

The Lab will draw on the skills and experience of its key personnel to analyse and scope these case studies, and to consider the way that the law or relevant digital systems could be designed, built or improved to resolve the issues posed by the case study. Where possible, this will involve the actual creation and implementation of computer programs or machine-executable outputs.

The Lab will publish its findings in order to enable others to learn from its activities and improve capacity and capability in New Zealand (with limited exceptions).


The concept of the DLS Lab was born out of a year-long research exercise shaping up the idea of “legislation as code” within a wider law as code movement. The authors have built a reputation and key networks with interested parties in each of the four stakeholder groups they identify. They have the knowledge base to speak with authority on this topic and also bring practical experience in performing these kinds of exercises within Central and Local Government.

Picture of report

Report: Legislation as Code, Opportunities, risks and recommendations

Discussion Paper: Digital Legal Systems Lab

Report: Treaty implications of Legislation as Code

The Mission

The mission of the Digital Legal Systems Lab is to be a place where people can bring a problem and find a solution. What we learn in the process will be shared as insights beneficial to the entire field, and will give it something that it sorely needs - grounded case studies. The Lab will be:

  • A place to build and test useful tools and infrastructure.
  • A place for multidisciplinary people to work together.
  • A place to contribute to a wider body of knowledge.
  • A place to lobby for uptake and appropriate use of tools and infrastructure.
  • A place to train people and develop skills.
  • A place to facilitate community initiatives.

As a result, the Lab will identify better ways for mitigating risk, for increasing public trust and confidence, and generating skills and experience among key people for more efficient and reliable systems. The lab will achieve critical mass by hosting many different projects simultaneously, with a range of practitioners from key sectors.

Collaboration and key stakeholders

The purpose of the lab is to build knowledge and capacity. It will do this by fostering collaboration, particularly between different disciplines and stakeholder groups. There are four key stakeholder groups who have significant interests in the way law and digital systems interact.

  1. Government
  2. Private sector
  3. Community sector and non-government organisations
  4. Academia and researchers

Projects will be identified and guided by the private sector, government, and the incubator’s own research priorities. The outputs will be digital tools that can perform legal tasks.

The Lab is designed on the premise that each of these stakeholder groups have valuable contributions to make, as well as key benefits they receive from participating.



  • Case studies and opportunities
  • Institutional expertise and experienced personnel
  • Insights into policy process
  • A focus on public interest and proper use of digital legal systems


  • Up-skilled workforce
  • International opportunities for trade and diplomacy
  • Improved regulatory systems
  • Trust and confidence in design and use of automated systems

Private sector:


  • Real-world use cases drawn from skin in the game
  • Experience in rapid design, implementation, iteration, and testing
  • Emphasis on avoiding esoteric or abstract investigations


  • Benefits of superior regulatory systems
  • “Digital ready” regulation
  • Up-skilled workforce
  • Commercial opportunities
  • Input into policy design

Community sector & non-government organisations:


  • Real-world use cases drawn from lived experience
  • Emphasis on public interest, human rights, the interests of specific groups
  • Expertise and experience from diverse communities


  • A forum and framework for meaningful repeat engagement
  • Insights and empirical evidence for substantiating contributions
  • Better outcomes for members and communities

Academia & researchers:


  • Theoretical and research-based expertise in law, digital systems and various subject areas
  • Focus on the broader socio-political implications of specific projects and the lab generally
  • Appropriately balancing public and private interests in controlling legal and digital systems


  • Real world examples to explore practical and theoretical approaches
  • Education and research opportunities for under- and post-graduate projects
  • Opportunities for international collaboration, teaching, community impact, and publications