September 24, 2015

Artificial Intelligence for Law Firms?

Categories: Working with your attorney

Work with experienced Tampa lawyers who embrace new technologies!

Our country is founded on laws. Thousands of laws help citizens get along with one another, resolve their conflicts, and promote a national system of justice. These thousands of laws – written and passed by state and federal legislators – are then interpreted in yet even more thousands of opinions by judges. Judicial opinions comprise what is known as case law. While legislators craft basic laws intended to reach everyone, judges help us understand how to apply a certain law to a specific set of facts, particularly when disputes arise.

For example, we are all guaranteed “due process” of law, but the U.S. Constitution doesn’t spell out exactly what due process entails. To understand due process completely, one must read through hundreds of opinions on individual cases to see how that constitutional protection has been interpreted and applied. To predict how a judge might decide questions of due process in a current case, one must understand, among many other issues,the difference between precedent that is controlling and precedent that is merely persuasive.

If that all sounds confusing, you might start to understand what lawyers do for three years in law school and beyond. Even after law school, most lawyers spend years strengthening their legal research muscles by pouring through constitutional provisions, statutes, and case law and learning how to apply that body of precedent to the individual cases they face in their chosen practice area.

Now, several companies are trying to make that legal research easier.

A recent report in The Globe and Mail – a Canadian newspaper – describes a computer program named Ross that was built on the IBM Watson platform. (Watson is famous for winning Jeopardy in 2011.) Ross started as a class project at the University of Toronto as part of an IBM-sponsored contest among ten different schools, all using the Watson program. Ross’s main function is to respond to legal questions by researching through the thousands of laws and court decisions and producing a possible answer that would apply that knowledge to a current case. Though it is focused largely on federal bankruptcy law at present, Ross has already been hired at Dentons – the largest law firm in the world – and at some U.S. law firms, where it is currently going through pilot program testing.

If Ross or one of his competitorsproves successful, it could revolutionize legal research – which can be one of the most time-consuming parts of a law practice – and speed up every part of a lawyer’s workload that relies on research. Legal writing, counseling with clients, and negotiations could take less time, opening up more time for each attorney to take on new clients.

While such advanced computer programs will neverreplace attorneys, at the Tampa, Florida law firm of Wagner, McLaughlin & Whittemore, we celebrate any technology that helps us work smarter for our clients. Along with legal research – whether computer-assisted or not –we will always draw from our own vast knowledge of personal injury, malpractice, and whistleblower case law to serve our clients. Contact us today to see how our knowledge can help you.

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