Artificial intelligence used properly in law
Wednesday, May 25, 2022 @ 2:47 PM | By Leanne Goldstein
The practice of law has progressed significantly from the days of typewriters, dictaphones and lawyers spending hours perusing thickly bound, gold embossed books filled with case law and legislation. Traditionally, legal opinions have been considered to be a bespoke product created by harnessing a specific lawyer’s wisdom, insight and expertise. The advent of technological advances has revolutionized many areas in the practice of law including legal research, contract formulation and management and dispute resolution processes.
Artificial intelligence is described by Great Learning Academy as an entity created by humans that is capable of performing tasks intelligently without being explicitly instructed. With machine learning algorithms can learn patterns from previous input and results and adjust tasks accordingly. AI can perform repetitive work quickly at any time of the day or night without supervision while reducing human error. It can analyze data in a fraction of the time it would take the average person. By providing lawyers with the power to expeditiously sift through large volumes of data, AI enhances the ability of law firms to increase productivity and decrease overhead. This can be translated into reduced fees for those seeking access to legal service.
The ability to analyze data quickly and accurately makes AI ideal for examining case law. Our legal system is based on precedent. Research can be time consuming and often, since lawyers are not able to review every available precedent, they may only use select cases which can result in conflicting decisions being rendered in the same or similar fact scenarios. Arguably the use of artificial intelligence in this context would ensure that all available precedent is explored and curated and could result in greater consistency in the body of case law.
The reduction of unconscious bias intrinsic in human decision-making and interpretation could potentially be addressed through AI. It is well known that the idiosyncratic schemata human beings utilize in the decision-making process can influence the outcome of a case from the method information is presented by the lawyers to the way it is processed by decision makers. By reducing the subjective interpretation of data, AI could potentially help reduce certain disparities and inequities that arise from injecting value judgments.
The long-term disability cases our firm handles require decisions to be made on whether a contractual test for disability as set out in an insurance policy has been met. The process begins with a review of medical records and information by the insurance company’s case manager or disability consultant and the internal medical consultants engaged by the insurance company. The same medical records are then reviewed and analyzed by lawyers, medical professionals and judges as the matter progresses through litigation.
Each one may have a different interpretation of the same medical records due to the subjective nature of the analysis, the knowledge base of the examiner and variations in interpretation. In disability law there is a subjectivity that is injected into the decision-making process, which is understandable because those decisions are being made by human beings. We have questioned whether there would be a place for AI to conduct a more objective analysis in order to reach a better understanding of medical information and whether it is sufficient to meet the contractually specified tests for disability.
That being said, is bias necessary in certain circumstances? The loss of subjectivity could be detrimental for individuals dealing with disabling conditions where the flavour of their situation may not come through unless it is being observed by a human being with a measure of empathy and understanding rather than a machine. AI may therefore be better suited to areas of the law that are more fact based such as taxation law. In fact, the Justice Department is currently experimenting with artificial intelligence in analyzing court cases in the area of taxation in order to predict how judges might decide an issue based on certain facts.
Our firm’s interest in legal technology and AI has grown. We are constantly exploring ways to increase clients’ access to justice while offering an affordable product. It is essential to determine if there is technology available that will enhance our ability to provide effective services while maintaining that critical level of human touch.
We are a firm that has utilized legal technology to enhance the experience for our clients and to facilitate our ability to run our files more efficiently and effectively. Even before COVID forced the legal profession to rely more on technology, we were comfortable utilizing a virtual environment in addition to a physical space. We have always been a very agile practice. This was prompted predominantly by the needs of our clients.
We deal with those who may have mobility problems or face restrictions and limitations due to their physical disabilities and illnesses. Others could be coping with mental illness, chronic pain or chronic fatigue. We are able to help those clients who would have a difficult time in the usual course of litigating claims. As a law firm, we are always mindful of how new advancements can augment our clients’ experiences and accommodate their needs.
Technology has allowed our firm to offer such things as teleconferencing, which can help put clients at ease. Virtual meetings are extremely beneficial when you are dealing with individuals who have disabling conditions. An individual may have a chemical sensitivity or severe anxiety that prevents them from being able to leave their homes, or they may have difficulty with mobility or difficulty sitting for prolonged periods of time. Many clients struggling with disabling conditions may have limited energy and finding ways to help them conserve their energy can greatly increase their ability to actively participate in legal proceedings.
Giving a client some measure of comfort as they grow to trust their lawyer is vital. It can be intimidating going into a lawyer’s office to deal with a sensitive issue with someone you have never met before. When you are sitting in the comfort of your own home with people you trust it can be a more reassuring way to engage. This is especially important for individuals struggling with mental illness and trauma.
In the end, when introducing technology and artificial intelligence into a law practice there must be a clear expectation of what the technology can offer and how best to employ it to improve the customer experience, accommodate needs and enhance access to justice.
Leanne Goldstein is a partner at MK Disability Lawyers. A practising lawyer for 20 years, Goldstein advocates for individuals whose short-term and long-term disability benefits have been wrongfully denied by insurance companies.
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