The first legal applications of Artificial Intelligence already appeared several decades ago, but they never really took off. That has changed over the last few years. A lot of the recent progress is thanks to advancements in Machine Learning (ML), Deep Learning (DL), and Legal Analytics (LA). As many lawyers are not familiar with these terms, we will first explain the concepts in this article. Then we will focus on some applications, and finish with some general considerations.

Let us start with the three terms Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Deep Learning, and how they relate to each other. The first thing to know is that Artificial Intelligence is the broadest term. Machine Learning is a subset of Artificial Intelligence, and Deep Learning in turn is a subset of Machine Learning.

The Techopedia defines Artificial intelligence (AI) as “an area of computer science that emphasizes the creation of intelligent machines that work and react like humans. Some of the activities computers with artificial intelligence are designed for include: Speech recognition, Learning, Planning, Problem solving.” Examples of legal AI applications that are not based on machine learning include, e.g., expert systems, decision tables, certain types of process automation (that focus on repetitive tasks), as well as simple legal chatbots that also focus on one or more specific tasks, etc.

Machine Learning (ML) is one branch of AI. It based on the idea that systems can learn from data, identify patterns and make decisions with minimal human intervention. It is a method of data analysis that automates analytical model building. To this end, it uses statistical techniques that give computer systems the ability to “learn” (e.g., progressively improve performance on a specific task) from the data, without being explicitly programmed.

In an article on TechRepublic, Hope Reese explains that Deep Learning (DL) “uses some ML techniques to solve real-world problems by tapping into neural networks that simulate human decision-making. Deep learning can be expensive, and requires massive datasets to train itself on. That’s because there are a huge number of parameters that need to be understood by a learning algorithm, which can initially produce a lot of false-positives.”

The process of learning in both Machine Learning and Deep Learning can be supervised, semi-supervised or unsupervised.

When applied to legal data, Machine Learning is often referred to as Legal Analytics. It “is the application of data analysis methods and technologies within the field of law to improve efficiency, gain insight and realize greater value from available data.” (TechTarget)

Let us have a look at some of the applications of machine learning in the legal field. The applications that are available are not just for lawyers, but also, e.g., for courts and law enforcement.

In a previous article, we already mentioned Legal Research, eDiscovery and Triage Services. Legal databases are increasingly using AI to present you with the relevant laws, statutes, case law, etc. There are eDiscovery services for lawyers as well as for law enforcement that focus on finding relevant digital evidence. Both typically use triage services to rank the results in order of relevance.

Legal Analytics are also being used for due diligence (where the system creates and uses intelligent checklists),  and for document review, including contract review. In some cases, the system can even go a step further and assist with the writing of documents and contracts (Intelligent Document Assembly). Some more advanced examples of process automation, e.g. for divorce cases where the whole procedure is largely automated, also rely on ML algorithms.

One of the fields where legal analytics has been making headlines is predictive analysis: using statistical models, the system makes predictions. Predictive analysis is not just used by lawyers, but in the broader legal field: there also are for applications, e.g., for courts and for law enforcement. There are systems, e.g., for:

  • Crime prediction and prevention that predict future crime spots.
  • Pretrial Release and Parole, Crime Recidivism Prediction
  • Judicial analytics and litigation analytics predict the chances of success or what the anticipated outcome is in certain cases. These systems can e.g.  be as specific as to take previous rulings by the presiding judge into account.

ML is also successfully being used in crime detection. There are AI systems that monitor what cameras are registering, or that use a network of microphones to detect shots being fired. In the news recently was a story how facial recognition software was used to scan people attending a concert, which led to several arrests being made.

These are just some examples. An article that was recently published in Tech Emergence (“AI in Law and Legal Practice – A Comprehensive View of 35 Current Applications”) gives an overview of 35 applications.

So, a lot of progress has been made in recent years in the fields of legal analytics /  legal machine learning. Still, there are certain issues and limitations to take into account when it comes to the legal field. A first issue has to do with privacy and confidentiality. Law firms who want to use their client data may need consent by those clients, and will have to anonymize the data. They also have to remain GDPR compliant. A second issue has to do with bias: in a previous article we mentioned how these AI systems inherit our biases. A third issue has to do with transparency: most neural networks present a conclusion without explaining how it came to that conclusion. If used in criminal cases, this constitutes a violation of the rights of defence. In civil cases, too, judges have to explain their decisions, and merely referring to the decision an AI system made is not sufficient. Lastly, there also is a cognitive aspect to the work lawyers do, and at present the cognitive abilities of legal ML systems are (still) extremely limited. They do not, e.g., know how to appreciate or emulate common sense.

 

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