The Mind of the Law . . . & the New Intelligence

Jason Koebler (credit: US News & World Report)

Jason Koebler has just published an article in The Atlantic entitled the “Rise of the “Robolawyers: How legal Representation Could come to Resemble TurboTax.” Here are a few highlights:

  1. Handicapping Lawsuits: “For years, artificial intelligence has been automating tasks—like combing through mountains of legal documents and highlighting keywords—that were once rites of passage for junior attorneys. The bots may soon function as quasi-employees. In the past year, more than 10 major law firms have “hired” Ross, a robotic attorney powered in part by IBM’s Watson artificial intelligence, to perform legal research. . . .”
  2. Chatbot Lawyers: “Technologies like Ross and Lex Machina are intended to assist lawyers, but AI has also begun to replace them—at least in very straightforward areas of law. The most successful robolawyer yet was developed by a British teenager named Joshua Browder. Called DoNotPay, it’s a free parking-ticket-fighting chatbot that asks a series of questions about your case—Were the signs clearly marked? Were you parked illegally because of a medical emergency?—and generates a letter that can be filed with the appropriate agency. So far, the bot has helped more than 215,000 people beat traffic and parking tickets in London, New York, and Seattle.  . . .”
  3. Minority Report: “. . . .In many states, judges use software called compas to help with setting bail and deciding whether to grant parole. The software uses information from a survey with more than 100 questions—covering things like a defendant’s gender, age, criminal history, and personal relationships—to predict whether he or she is a flight risk or likely to re-offend. . . .”
  4. An Explosion of Lawsuits: “Eventually, we may not need lawyers, judges, or even courtrooms to settle civil disputes. Ronald Collins, a professor at the University of Washington School of Law, has outlined a system for landlord–tenant disagreements. Because in many instances the facts are uncontested—whether you paid your rent on time, whether your landlord fixed the thermostat—and the legal codes are well defined, a good number of cases can be filed, tried, and adjudicated by software. Using an app or a chatbot, each party would complete a questionnaire about the facts of the case and submit digital evidence. ‘Rather than hiring a lawyer and having your case sit on a docket for five weeks, you can have an email of adjudication in five minutes,’ Collins told me. He believes the execution of wills, contracts, and divorces could likely be automated without significantly changing the outcome in the majority of cases. . . .”

There’s more in the Koebler piece, including a “Brief Chronicle of Legal Technology” — so check out the full article.

Forthcoming: Related Works 

  • Coming next year from Cambridge University Press: Collins & Skover, Robotica: Speech Rights & Artificial IntelligenceThe book (the main text of which is now complete) will include commentaries by Ryan CaloJane Bambauer, James Grimmelmann, Bruce Johnson, and Helen Norton along with a rejoinder by the authors.

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