Artificially Intelligent Lawyers, Oh My!

A few months back in my Robots Replacing Attorneys? post mention was made of the app Fixed that has successfully assisted individuals appeal traffic tickets. The latest development is its acquisition by LawGix, a law firm that is also part technology company. While LawGix certainly acquired it for its technology, not its talent, this novel acquisition may be a bellwether for the legal industry in the arena of artificial intelligence.

If the latest news, here and here is any indication, traditional brick and mortar law firms are also quickly getting on the artificial intelligence bandwagon. From ROSS, of Jeopardy fame, which purportedly learned the basics of bankruptcy law in a mere 10 months to Artificially Intelligent Authors, Oh My! the lines of what constitutes work done by real human beings versus computer algorithms is becoming significantly blurred. All of which begs the question – can humans discern the difference? If you want to test your ability to discern computer versus human writing take this quiz. Depending on your score, it might be an indication of how you’d fare if presented with a similar quiz testing your ability to determine if a real lawyer versus a robot addressed your legal issue? Hmm…would it be better to pass or fail such a test?

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Top 5 Must Have Productivity Tools

  1. INVESTINTECH’s PDF to Word Converter is not your average document converter tool. What sets it apart from other like-tools is its ability to convert both scanned and native PDFs to Word, it requires no software installation on your computer, supports all files sizes, and is completely free to use.
  2. ($10/user/month) is designed to help managers  who hold a lot of meetings make meeting management more productive. It guides you toward better meeting practices and provides a central place for meeting archives, follow-ups and outcome tracking, and more.
  3. (free) has been around for quite some time now and is an excellent way to effortlessly set up polls for scheduling meetings. It is free to use, and respondents need not join to answer a poll. It delivers on its promise in cutting down on needless emails to determine the best time for a group of individuals to meet by streamlining the process of scheduling.
  4. FreshBooks (starting at $9.95/mo) is a cloud accounting tool for managing and tracking invoices, time, and expenses for very small businesses. A risk-free 30 day trial lets you try it out and determine if it works for you.
  5. Pocket (free) formerly Read It Later, lets users save Web pages, video clips, and images to their accounts and access them at a later time. The next time a blog post, tweet or link to an interesting article threatens to distract you, tap the Pocket icon and rest assured that the item will be waiting for you to peruse later.
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Robots Replacing Attorneys?

robots v humans

Lately the blogosphere has been ablaze with articles discussing the potential demise of legal professionals due to advances in technology. Take for example this story about how a young man developed a robot that has appealed $3 million in parking tickets, and this ABA article plausibly suggesting “that over time—by which we mean decades rather than overnight—there will be technological unemployment in the professions”. In other words,  at minimum basic legal tasks accomplished with the use of technology will replace some tasks that lawyers do leading to the need for less of them.

A few law firms are offering unique and innovative ways of providing legal services such as CooleyGo which offers basic transactional document drafting for free, in the hopes that it will bring more complex paid legal work in the door. And likewise, Axiom Law with the tagline “forget everything you thought you knew about legal services” seems to be disrupting the way in which certain kinds of legal work is done by providing the assistance of non-law firm attorneys on a variety of legal tasks at presumably lower costs to the consumer. Finally, Beagle while not a law firm is an artificial intelligence service that offers automated contract analysis that traditionally has been accomplished by real live attorneys.

Will robots/technology replace real live human attorneys? If you consider that for years the onerous but important research task of consulting voluminous Shepard’s volumes to make certain the cases you were citing were still “good law” has been done by technology (i.e. Shepardizing, Keycite), it is easy to answer yes to that question. Clearly, technology will continue to change the practice of law and routine legal tasks such as cite-checking, document review, and basic contract drafting will be taken over by robots or  technology.

However, overall the outcome is more likely to be that posited in Maybe Lawyers Can’t Be Uber-ized. After all, law is a service industry and people like to be served. In fact they often don’t have the time nor desire to do it themselves. I’m not sure I’d want a robot giving me legal advice nor representing me in the courtroom. Would you?



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Cloud Computing in Law Firms: Progress?

Cloud computing

In late 2012 my post The Inevitability of Cloud Computing in Law Firms summarized findings from a 2012 global cloud survey finding that 45% of respondents favored use of it for certain applications and predicted widespread adoption of cloud computing was just around the corner.

On the legal side, the ABA recently published a handy chart here and map (see below) detailing states with or without an ethics opinion the issue that while revealing law firms are at least at the corner, widespread adoption has yet to occur. Of the 19 states with an opinion all permit storage of client files in the cloud and say that “reasonable care” must be exercised in using the cloud. Each state varies on additional  criteria that must be met if a law firm wishes to utilize the cloud for storing documents.


Blue means the state has an ethics opinion allowing use of the cloud and grey means state has yet to issue an opinion. Source:

My follow-up post Cloud Computing: An Update which summarized a few cloud usage predictions from a Gartner top predictions report for IT stated that by the end of 2016 “more than 50 percent of Global 1000 companies will have stored customer-sensitive data in the public cloud.” While it is not clear that prediction as come to fruition, employees of those companies are using the cloud as evidenced by the results of an IBM security study that found “1 in every 3 Fortune 1000 employees regularly saves and shares company data to external cloud-based platforms, which their companies cannot track.”

Perhaps the same is happening in law firms as well. Nevertheless, as more states release ethics opinions, widespread adoption by law firms will not only round the corner, and albeit not put all concerns aside, will leave lack of widespread adoption in the dust.

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AI: Artificial Intelligence v. Attorney Intelligence


In Debunking 3 Legal Technology Myths the writer states “technology is usually not about becoming a better lawyer – that’s what CLEs and mentors are for. Technology is about running a more effective law business using shortcuts.” While using technology can help with efficiency, there are certainly legal tasks that computers do well such as document review and cite-checking. Likewise, there are legal tasks attorneys are uniquely equipped to do well: legal research, thinking and addressing complex issues, advising clients, and yes document review (albeit more slowly and costly than computers).

However, the development of IBM’s Watson and the fact that in 2011 it won against two of Jeopardy’s greatest champions has catapulted the idea of artificial intelligence (i.e. technology) as potentially replacing the work of legal professionals into the spotlight. And the graph below from a recent Altman Weil survey is telling with respect to how legal professionals feel about this possibility.


Certainly there are timekeeper tasks that a law-focused Watson-like technology could do. But should we consider the idea from AI Should Stand for Attorney Intelligence that “we are losing sight of the proposition that people are slow and computers fast, but people are smart and computers are dumb”? Or see the proof In A Huge Breakthrough, Google’s AI Beats a Top Player at the Game of Go which lends further credence to the idea that computers are getting closer to mimicking human intelligence and thus are not quite as “dumb” as they once were?

No matter where you stand on the issue of artificial intelligence, if you think you should care about technology because it might replace you, rethink that thought, and consider instead the conclusion in Why Should You Care About Legal Technology that ignoring it will be perilous.

Computers (AI) can answer questions, but for now at least, they cannot ask questions or provide insight! As humans we possess plausible reasoning and critical thinking skills, thus we are able to answer both simple and complex questions. As humans, lawyers are equipped to provide the legal advice necessary to help clients make good decisions.

Technology is great, but the real key is in being smart and acquiring the knowledge of how to use the technology at your disposal to enhance the skills you already possess. Moreover, when the time comes, as it most surely will, we need to embrace and harness new and future technologies to continue improving the business of law.



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3 Apps Worth Exploring


  1. iTimeKeep delivers on its tag line of “Simple, Elegant, Everywhere” in keeping up with your time entry on your smart phone, tablet, desktop and iWatch no matter where you are. Enter your time via voice to text or manually. Even better it integrates with many of the major time and billing systems used by law firms.
  2. TrialWorks is an app for managing your cases. Billed as “the first app of its kind” for providing attorneys with access to all their matter related documents on the go including notes, docket (calendar), and contacts.
  3. Jury in a Hurry while not free ($49.99) was developed by a seasoned trial attorney and takes jury selection to a whole new platform – your mobile device! Chock full of unique features including 160 pre-loaded questions and the ability to add customized questions, juror scoring and more this app is worth a closer look.
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Caveat Emptor: Risks of “Free” Legal Information


It is human nature to love free stuff! However, it’s not necessarily likely for people to recognize that what appears “free” often comes with a few caveats. In Free Legal Information is Not Risk Free Jean O’Grady succinctly unpacks a recently released report on the state of legal information. Important warnings abound regarding free legal information, especially as relates to State materials found on the Internet.

Take heed of just a few of the findings below:

  • State provided legal information sites provide minimal search capabilities: citation retrieval and some basic searching
  • Case citators are not provided by any State case-law sites
  • Ambiguous dates for when many free State provided statutes were last updated
  • Some States post disclaimers regarding reliability of the information

Legal researchers, the general public and especially attorneys using freely available legal information resources on the Web beware: “free legal information is not risk free”.

Click here for a full PDF of the State of Legal Information report findings.




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