Disruption? More Like Incremental Change for Big Law

“AI screams loudest in Big Law. For example, the news in May of BakerHosteteler going public with using ROSS Intelligence (based on IBM Watson) generated many “Robot Lawyer” stories. Hyperbolic headlines notwithstanding, the impact of AI is limited to three fairly narrow realms.

  1. Machine learning improves contract analytics and powers predictive coding in e-Discovery. The latter says a lot about legal. I saw long ago, from the document review trenches, that machines usually perform better than big teams of humans. Persuading both lawyers and the courts of that, however, has been a decade-plus effort that continues.
  2. Expert systems deliver interactive legal advice for specific legal questions. Several large law firms have recently announced such systems. Building and maintaining them requires much expert lawyer time, which remains an economic disincentive. I worked for a legal expert system company in the late 1990s. It’s taken 15-plus years for a few commercial systems to emerge.
  3. Watson benefits from IBM’s PR prowess. My Watson blog posts explain my skepticism in detail. Even ROSS Intelligence talks more about augmentation than replacement. AI disruption proponents should read the scholarly and empirically-based paper, Can Robots Be Lawyers?  (Remus and Levy, 30 Dec 2015, SSRN). It concludes the employment impact of AI on lawyers will remain limited for the foreseeable future.

In sum, the case of AI doing something to the legal market is hard to see. And even feeling its impact in via incremental change in legal is taking time, just as prior technologies did.”

via  Big Law Business http://ow.ly/ArE4301oJnr

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