A.I. is dead, long live A.I.
Jimmy - 19/04/2016


“Have we missed the latest product innovation in AI and law or there is nothing out yet?”  It seems like everyone has been talking about A.I. and law in the last year. Denton has invested in the IBM Watson-powered software ROSS. And just last week Vanderbilt University organised a conference titled ‘Will your next lawyer be a machine?’ featuring Susskind, ROSS, Riverview Law and Daniel Katz.

We are told that AI will be coming surely tomorrow –  but like in Waiting for Godot, you start feeling disillusioned. David Lewis, a speaker from the Vanderbilt conference, said to Bloomberg last week,“A.I. is whatever we can’t do this year” And David Perla advised legal startups to focus on everything but AI (because small law firms don’t need it that much).

AI twitter

But, wait a minute.

What do we mean when we talk about Artificial Intelligence?

We are all been focusing on Watson passing the bar exam, but the truth is that there are already several startups doing interesting things with Machine Learning: in E-discovery (Recommind, Content Analyst), Outcome prediction (Lex Machina, LexPredict) and Contract analysis (Kyra Systems, KM Standards). So what’s all the fuss about?

We think the issue is the actual phrase “A.I.“. In other industries people do not obsess about the technology for example no one talks about A.I. maps. We just talk about the useful mapping features that learn from traffic patterns and improve our journey times. Rather than labouring the threats and negative changes the legal profession needs to wake up to the features and positive contributions from technology: essentially A.I. allows lawyers to work more efficiently.

robots are the new lawyers

I already hear your objection: Machine Learning is not Artificial Intelligence! Actually it is.what is ai
In the end, we like catchphrases on A.I. (your next lawyer will be a machine!) as much as we like catchphrases on the “disillusionment of A.I.” (A.I. is just a buzzword!).

But the point is, there is already quite a lot Artificial intelligent legal technology out there, which is not only promising, is also working.

I feel that all this fuss about Watson passing the bar (actually, who cares?) conceals a not so subtle urge to get rid of the lawyers.

But, in this, David George (IBM Watson) said at the Robots and Lawyers event Legal Geek organized last December, if a legal Watson will ever see the light, we will still need loads of lawyers to train him. Loads.

Further read: this report by Neota Logic on the State of the Art of Artificial Intelligence in 2016.