Humans have a sort of love hate relationship with artificial intelligence and technology as a whole. On one side, automation has immensely increased productivity while slashing costs by large percentages. On the flip side, automation can and have led to actual human workers getting replaced due to the aforementioned reasons. This has happened in numerous industries, and there is a very active discussion on whether it can replace the justice system, from lawyers to judges to paralegals.
With justice systems around the world backlogged with several cases that are still ongoing for weeks, months, or even years, on end, and with a large concern regarding people getting wrongly accused and convicted of crimes, there are groups of people that are actually pushing towards automation of these processes, as they feel that automated systems, once the technology has matured, can lead to efficient, accurate, infallible, and incorruptible progress of law. This is probable, as law is nothing but, at its core, a series of if-else-then statements that rule how a population should behave and abide by.
Can Lawyers be Replaced by AI?
However, the law being replaceable by a program that can output an argument that is fed into another machine for judgement is not an open and shut case, pun intended. This is due to a number of factors that even the most complicated machines cannot interpret. In addition, lawyers have a myriad of other functions that artificial intelligence may not be able to cover completely. These tasks may include:
- Picking jurors
- Drafting legal documents
- Divorce mediation
- Legal research
- Cross-examining witnesses
- Client representation
As you can see, there is a wide variety of functions that lawyers perform, and most of these require some form of human intervention. Documents would have to be verified to ensure that all grounds have been covered. Research must be validated as data deemed erroneous by the courts will be thrown out. There is a mass amount of data that must be processed for even the most advanced artificial intelligence today to provide a 100% accurate output.
Among the most important factors that machines do not possess, unless the Turing test will ever be passed, is the emotional element. Variables such as compassion and fairness may not be replicated by a machine which relies on cold, hard facts. A mother that steals to provide food for the family may be punished in the same way that a leader of a Ponzi scheme that swindled millions out of dozens of victims. If a no gray area algorithm is followed, then that would harsh and very scary reality indeed.
Emotional intelligence is, and always will be, one of the main foundations of government. Relying on machines will develop a dependence that will not be conducive to good governance. Appeals and commutation of sentences will no longer exist under the pretense that computers are incapable of making mistakes. From there, the justice system will inevitably break down as no one, maybe even the lawyers themselves, will believe and trust the system within the system.
How Can AI Help the Legal System?
While lawyers cannot be replaced by artificial intelligence, at least for the time being, there are many ways by which computer systems can help the legal system become more effective. However, these can only serve as tools which can make their jobs easier and by no means substitute for the years of study and experience that they may have. Here are some of the things that artificial intelligence can help with for lawyers and the justice system as a whole.
Speed and Accuracy
With almost all of the information being available on the Internet these days, crawling for data relevant to a case has never been easier. Getting information about a client, gathering references from previous cases, and using available data from both online and offline sources can be done in a few seconds, when a team of paralegal may spend hours or days acquiring the same amount of data.
Artificial intelligence has proven to be very effective as a data gathering tool, and it can also allow for automatic and instantaneous cross examination of witnesses in past hearings. This can put you at a great advantage especially if you can find something that can help your case. Juror selection based on profiles will also be a cinch. All you have to do is feed information into the system and they can come up with the best possible jurors based on your specifications.
As work speeds up, immense savings will be felt both for law firms and clients. As lawyers charge by the hour, expenses will be drastically reduced as the need for paralegals and researchers will be slashed tremendously. While law firms may think that this would, in turn, cut into their profits, they should think that having a cheap yet effective system in place will give them a more marketable edge. This will easily translate to a much larger client base that they can handle efficiently even with reduced manpower.
Imagine being able to come up with legal documents without even being present. Artificial intelligence can help in gathering data from clients by programming interview questions and letting them answer it by themselves. Based on research, humans tend to answer more truthfully in instances when they are not talking directly to a human. As such, lawyers can focus more on validating completeness of data rather than gathering them. Of course, human intervention would still be required, but this would be at a minimum if a mature AI is set in place for the task.
In the future, lawyers will almost inevitably be required to function symbiotically with AI interfaces to perform the more rudimentary tasks required of the legal system. However, they will never be replaced as human interaction would still be required. This is likewise true for judges and jurors that will decide innocence or guilt. While DIY legal documents such as wills and merger agreements may be left for computers to draw up, a higher level of understanding and analysis will still be required for most, if not all, legal based services. Compassion and empathy will also never be removed from any facet of the justice system. Those responsibilities lie solely upon human lawyers, and these would never be replaced by even the smartest of machines.