The legal profession’s uneasy embrace of innovation

Perhaps the rumors about lawyers being reluctant to adopt new technologies are somewhat exaggerated.

According to Paul Hoffman’s 1973 book “Lions in the Street,” by the early 1970s the big wall street firms had–after a fashion–embraced computers:

The business of the blue-chip bar is business. It’s apparent from the priorities a law firm sets for itself. Law schools and legal publishers have made great strides in computerizing the statute books–press a button and a precedent pops up on the print-out–though the process is far from perfected. But when the blue-chip firms installed computers, they were placed not in the law libraries, but in the accounting offices. The electronic brains are used not for legal research, but for billing.

Overall Hoffman’s book is a pretty interesting perspective into one of the most important aspects of the transformation of US legal system in the twentieth century: the rise of the large corporate law firm.

The Cravath system tended to produce an able and hardworking, if narrow and unimaginative, lawyer–what law students call a “grind.” Cravath himself wanted it that way. “Brilliant intellectual powers are not essential,” he told a Harvard Law Class in 1920. “Too much imagination, too much wit, too great cleverness, too facile fluency, if not leavened by a sound sense of proportion are quite as likely to impede success as to promote it. The best clients are apt to be afraid of those qualities. They want as their counsel a man who is primarily honest, safe, sound and steady.

What AI and the law means for you: how to succeed by teaming up with ANDROID legal minds

As software gets smarter, computers are tackling increasingly complex tasks like beating world champions at games like Go and Jeopardy, driving cars, diagnosing complex diseases, and, yes, doing legal analysis of documents in lawsuits. Until recently we thought only humans could do these tasks. But all that is changing, and very soon, succeeding as an attorney will require learning how to work in the era of legal artificial intelligence.

Continue reading “What AI and the law means for you: how to succeed by teaming up with ANDROID legal minds”

Can Artificial Intelligence Fix the Legal System?

If you want to understand how supersmart computers, aka Artificial Intelligence, might be able to fix what ails the legal system, the best place to start is a paper written over twenty five years ago.

In 1989, in their paper “The Potential of Artificial Intelligence to Solve The Crisis in Our Legal System,” (Communications of the ACM, August 1989), Donald Berman and Carol Hafner started with a relatively simple hypothetical.  A guy is fighting mad at a broker who sold him a lemon of a house, and the buyer goes to talk to a lawyer about whether he has a case: Continue reading “Can Artificial Intelligence Fix the Legal System?”