Machines are taking over the work of people everywhere. In the not too distant past, spell-checking and search engines were regarded by many as ‘intelligent’ information technology.
Today, facial recognition routinely checks travellers at our airports. Google Maps gives unsolicited advice at destinations: “the restaurant may be closed”.
Tablets and mobile phone answer spoken questions with friendly spoken replies.
The newspapers talk about ‘robot’ justice. There are claims that algorithms can accurately predict court decisions, and that we won’t need human judges anymore. We enjoy talking about things that don’t exist yet and fantasize about how they will make our lives easier. But what do we already know, actually, about the use of artificial intelligence?
AI in layman’s terms is a statistical model that makes “decisions” based on math, or algorithms. It’s a significant technology being implemented to digitize legal process. AI’s usefulness is as good as the model and the IT developers who built it.
Administering justice means delivering justice in individual cases, and the judiciary also has a shadow function in presenting standards to society more broadly. But regardless of the subject matter, the work of courts and judges is to process information; parties bring information to the court, transformations take place in the course of the procedure, and the outcome is also information.
Not all of this information processing is complex customization. Default judgments and statements of inadmissibility are often routinely produced; many cases require a simple assessment without a hearing, and some cases are settled. Some proportion of the cases that the judiciary has to deal with, are complex, contradictory cases.
AI can be useful in many different ways to meet different requirements. Sales talk on AI for courts is abundant. It has been argued that ‘it would make it fairer, and moreover, unlike human judges, AI does not get tired and does not depend on its glucose levels to function.’
That is mostly speculation. The discussion here, however, focuses mainly on what we already know from evidence. Its focus is on “proven technology”, AI that has already proven to be useful in practice.
AI use cases include e-discovery, sifting through large amounts of structure and unstructured data. The ability to quickly sift through large amounts of data removes the time it would take a human to find relevant material more quickly.
Automatic speech recognition (ASR) is a large piece of the AI puzzle with regard to its ability to service the legal field. An admissible legal transcript requires everything mentioned in a proceeding to be recorded word-for-word. To fully achieve this, the AI may do the initial capture and transcription, but human interaction and edits with the transcribed word is also necessary.
AI is already able to help individuals, litigants and judges with organising information. As the library of legal information is enriched, Artificial intelligence can also help with advice and suggestions. Judges need to understand how AI works, in order to make adequate use of it. Courts, in turn, need to digitalize their information and provide it with legal interpretation, in order to make it more usable for artificial intelligence systems. Courts must constantly monitor their system for effectiveness and adjust it if necessary.
For courts and court systems largely set up and run as production organizations, this kind of development work is a huge new task.
The need for social distancing has forced every industry to rethink how it operates and seek creative ways to conduct business.
Remote video platforms and artificial intelligence technology have emerged as two solutions to address both the shortage and the need for social distancing.
So where do AI and law fit in together? AI is only a tool in the overall process which still very much requires a ‘human touch’, but those who implement AI in legal industry processes will only stand to gain from doing so.
The ball is in your court.