Lawyer’s desks are often cluttered with papers.  There are files upon files.  Accordion folders are part and parcel for a deal closing or court hearing.  These papers and their content are often why the resolution of a legal issue is expensive and prolonged.  While technology has already affected many areas of the law and made things like legal research more accurate and efficient, legal technology will soon become more predictive.
Electronic discovery and research applications will continue to shift from organizational tools to predictive platforms.  Platforms with the potential to allow clients to make informed legal decisions without consulting a traditional law firm.  Finland’s TrademarkNow has come up with a way to automate trademark searches and let companies know if a new enterprise’s name might infringe on an existing trademark.

With the advent of services like WriteLab and Grammarly, students have the ability to improve their writing in a simple, easy-to-use platform that offers advice on everything from spelling to sentence construction.  Companies like Pittsburg’s LegalSifter are looking to offer similar services to clients by allowing them to improve the terms of their contracts. LegalSifter’s software does this by comparing the contract with standard contracts and flagging terms that might be problematic.  The company’s original versions of the software offered advice on improvements.  Regulators were, unfortunately, quick to shut this down as an unauthorized practice of law.  While I wouldn’t advise a company to take the advice of a computer program on its face, software recommendations can aid in-house lawyers and even traditional lawyers practicing in a firm.  It would be nice to see regulators strike a balance on this issue and embrace the use of predictive technologies.

Predictive legal technology will also change the judiciary.  Several countries have studied the possibility of using largely automated online courts to handle small claims.  In the UK, this suggestion was met with criticism.  Critics believe that the use of online courts risks precluding the technologically illiterate or those who lack internet access.  While this is a concern, the argument is largely unpersuasive.  It is not as if people have great access to courts to begin with. Good lawyers are expensive and unlikely to take small claims and public service lawyers are often overworked.  While in some situations a plaintiff can represent themselves this is often a daunting situation especially if the person is suing a company with the means to defend itself.  It seems likely that most of the demographic who would likely fall into the group of not having access to technology or being technologically illiterate wouldn’t have access to court anyway.  At least online courts would afford them another opportunity to have a claim heard, even if the claim is only “heard” by a computer.

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Tyler Ricker


One Response to The Rise of Predictive Legal Technology

  1. Chris Borns says:

    I hope to see an increasing embrace of technology by the legal industry in the coming years. I certainly agree that transitioning a good portion of small claims adjudication to an online-based system would go a long way to easing administrative burdens and actually—as you point out-improve access to the court system. It will be interesting to see where this all goes, but-as the UK has already shown-it’s not going to be met without resistance.