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12 March 2020

Technology in the law: Is artificial intelligence (AI) superior to human intelligence?

We are now living in a world where ‘artificial’ intelligence (AI) is in some respects far superior and more cost-effective than the ‘traditional’ intelligence and capabilities offered by legal professionals. In these times of exponential growth across all forms of data and immediate access to information, lawyers need to focus on client service, personal relationships, advice and guidance built on the information and analysis generated by software. Law firms must consider what tools are available in order to provide clients with the most accurate and cost-effective assistance. For the most part, these tools are best employed in cases involving large amounts of documentation that could not be processed and analysed as effectively by individuals.

For example, Pyrrho Investments Limited v MWB Property Limited [2016] EWHC 256 (Ch) was the first judgement in this jurisdiction to demonstrate that predictive coding was not only more efficient than a manual ‘human’ review of the documentation but also, importantly, more accurate.

AI has been on an upward trajectory whereas (arguably) human intelligence has not. We are not at a stage where AI is able to replace the considered, emotional, empathetic and human thought that is expected of legal experts, and it is not anticipated any time soon, however there are a number of areas where AI is already capable of producing a more superior service than lawyers. This should be seen as a real opportunity for the profession rather than a threat.

In the context of litigation and predictive coding, the software’s search algorithm is ‘taught’ by appropriate legal professionals familiar with the key issues of a particular case to improve its recognition of relevant and important documentation. The legal professional only needs to review, for example, thousands of documents to sufficiently teach the algorithm to review and categorise the rest (which might be millions of documents), saving both time and money. The benefits of predictive coding are clear, although its use should be considered on a case by case basis.

There are also a number of other technological advancements that the legal profession should be aware of and open to using in appropriate circumstances. Again, in the context of litigation, software can help lawyers and clients to analyse the issues in a case, assess appropriate legal arguments and potential strategic choices. It can also help to predict the success of a particular case or argument. Data analysis in this way does feel like a substantial step into the domain of the legal professional but should be embraced as a way of improving the particular legal service. Technological advances in the legal profession are not restricted to litigation. Software can assist with the creation, analysis and interrogation of contracts, as well as managing and monitoring the parties’ ongoing contractual relationships.

The legal profession is changing and technology will play an increasingly important role. However, there is no foreseeable alternative to a personal client relationship that understands how specific legal issues relate to and impact the individuals, companies or corporations involved.

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