Lawyer or Computer

October 19, 2006

Given the choice, who would you rather trust to safeguard your future: a bloodsucking lawyer or a cold, calculating computer? Granted, it’s not much of a choice, since neither lawyers nor computers are renowned for their compassion. But it is a choice that you may well encounter in the not-too-distant future, as software based on ‘artificial intelligence’ (AI) starts to dispense legal advice. Instead of paying a lawyer by the hour, you will have the option of consulting intelligent legal services via the web. While this might sound outlandish, experts believe that the advent of smart software capable of giving good, solid legal advice could revolutionise the legal profession. … What makes both these programs so smart is that they do more than just follow legal rules. Both tasks involve looking back through past cases and drawing inferences from them about how the courts are likely to view a new case. To do this, the programs use a combination of two common AI techniques: expert systems and machine learning. Smart software has the potential to make legal advice more readily available, unnecessary court battles less frequent, and rulings more consistent.

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