Legal Eagles Will Have Ruffled Feathers and Emit Non-AI Screeches

February 6, 2023

The screech of an eagle is annoying. An eagle with ruffled feathers can make short work of a French bulldog. But legal eagles are likely to produce loud sounds and go hunting for prey; specifically, those legal eagles will want to make life interesting for a certain judge in Columbia. (Nice weather in Bogota, by the way.)

A Judge Just Used ChatGPT to Make a Court Decision” reports:

Judge Juan Manuel Padilla Garcia, who presides over the First Circuit Court in the city of Cartagena, said he used the AI tool to pose legal questions about the case and included its responses in his decision, according to a court document dated January 30, 2023.

One attorney in the US wanted to use smart software in a US case. That did not work out. There are still job openings at Chick-f-A, by the way.

I am not convinced that outputs from today’s smart software is ready for prime time. In fact, much of the enthusiasm is a result of push back against lousy Google search results, a downer economic environment, and a chance to make a buck without ending up in the same pickle barrel as Sam Bankman Fried or El Chapo.

Lawyers have a reason to watch Sr. Garcia’s downstream activities. Here are the reasons behind what I think will be fear and loathing by legal eagles about the use of smart software:

  1. Billability. If software can do what a Duke law graduate does in a dusty warehouse in dim light in a fraction of the time, partners lose revenue. Those lawyers sifting through documents and pulling out the ones that are in their jejune view are germane to a legal matter can be replaced with fast software. Wow. Hasta la vista billing for that mindless document review work.
  2. Accuracy. Today’s smart software is in what I call “close enough for horseshoes” accuracy. But looking ahead, the software will become more accurate or at least as accurate as a judge or other legal eagle needs to be to remain a certified lawyer. Imagine. Replacing legal deliberations with a natural language interface and the information in a legal database with the spice of journal content. There goes the legal backlog or at least some of it with speedy but good enough decisions.
  3. Consistency. Legal decisions are all over the place. There are sentencing guidelines and those are working really well, right? A software system operating on a body of content will produce outputs that are accurate within a certain range. Lawyers and judges output decisions which can vary widely.

Nevertheless, after the ruffling and screeching die down, the future is clear. If a judge in Columbia can figure out how to use smart software, that means the traditional approach to legal eagle life is going to change.

Stephen E Arnold, February 6, 2023


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