Computer-based Legal Decision-making in 2006

Ron Friedmann has a thought-provoking post called “Computers as Lawyers?” that I recommend that everyone who likes to think about the intersection of law and technology take a look at.
The post strikes a lot of notes for me. For example, I’ve talked with Marc Lauritsen (Marc, how can we talk you into blogging?) and others on and off over the last few years about decision trees.
I remember back in law school at Georgetown, I took one of the first classes in Computers and the Law offered in the US. That was in 1982. Milton Wessel was the professor and I don’t know many classes that I enjoyed more. One day, we were talking about artificial intelligence and the law, and the applicability of computers to legal decision-making. I asked this question: If we “knew” (in a measurable way) that an AI program was more likely to reach a measurably “correct” result than a jury, would we change from a jury system to a software system? There was an impassioned discussion, with the overwhelming consensus that people prefer a less accurate human system than a more accurate software system. What was interesting is how the discussion suggested that “objective correctness” was not in fact the goal of the legal system and that justice is something fuzzier, yet more comforting than pure accuracy.
It’s now 25 years later and I’m curious whether lawyers end up in the same place. I suspect that as more is at stake, the “human element” feels more essential, but as less is at stake, issues are more mundane, and speed and efficiency matters more, computerized decision-making becomes more attractive. Or, let the computers take the boring cases and save the interesting ones for us.
Read Ron’s post and the links he points to and give it some thought.
The money quote:

Lawyers (well, at least the forward thinking ones) are increasingly relying on “smart search engines” to reduce the cost of reviewing e-discovery documents.

[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (http://www.denniskennedy.com/blog/)]
Learn more about legal technology at Dennis Kennedy’s Legal Technology Central page.
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