Are Robot Lawyers a Good Idea?
Recently a major law firm announced they would be using a robot, called Ross, to aid with their legal research. And last year a coder in the UK created a site that could be used to handle parking tickets which has skyrocketed in popularity. Both of these innovations may just be a peek into the not so distant future where bots and people increasingly work hand in hand.
DoNotPay is the name of the bot that 18 year old Joshua Browder created to aid people with parking ticket issues in England. He created it in order to help friends and family and to address what he saw as unfairness in the issuance of parking tickets, which seemed to him to disproportionately target the elderly and disabled.
The parking ticket bot, which is available online for free, has disputed millions in fees for those who have used it, saving them money on tickets and legal costs. It uses a simple Q&A format to parse out details of the ticket and which options are available to dispute it.
It has had a much larger impact than Browder ever expected. Approximately 40% of those who used it have been successful in disputing their citations; and it saved drivers almost 2 million pounds in just its first four months.
ROSS is an Artificial Intelligence machine which uses IBM’s Watson technology. The firm Baker Hostetler, which employs 900 lawyers and has 50 working on bankruptcy alone, has decided to use it to aid in legal research in their bankruptcy department.
Legal research is cumbersome and often voluminous; having a robot sift through information may greatly benefit the firm and help speed up resolutions for their clients. Ultimately saving time will also save money and reduce the burden on human researchers.
The use of software to sort information is nothing new to legal research but until now the software has been static. Ross is unique and far more useful in that it can be trained to reinforce or to question the relevance of the information gathered. It does this by interacting with human researchers, which helps to improve its skills as people refine what information is needed and considered useful by virtue of up or down votes. While static searches may miss information, Ross evolves to improve its research skills over time.
Will Legal Assistants and Lawyers be Completely Replaced?
Ross is a tool designed to support and interact with people. It is unlikely that it could ever replace humans. Attorneys and their assistants are better able to judge human emotion and situations based on experiences and better able to assess approaches and outcomes relative to the specific court. Bots may provide more thorough support and faster assessments when it comes to research details, but they won’t replace the humanity and compassion that a person provides.
That is not to say that increasingly sophisticated algorithms and interactions won’t offer important insight because they can and they will. But in cases that involve more than a ticket or research skills, a human touch is vital for creative and insightful resolutions.
Of course, in a future AI world, anything is possible….