Litigation advice and artificial intelligence

There is much talk in the news about artificial intelligence and the coming loss of jobs, in the legal profession as elsewhere. Without doubt, there are traditional legal tasks that have been successfully transferred to paralegals and will be further transferred to robots or some form of artificial intelligence.

However, one aspect of a lawyer’s role that will likely be immune to the impact of computers or artificial intelligence, at least for the foreseeable future, is that with respect to litigation advice and the conduct of a trial.

The most important quality that a client has a right to expect from a lawyer giving advice in a litigation matter is judgment. A client is buying that judgment, most importantly the judgment that comes from not just knowledge of book law, but from experience that enables the lawyer to predict the most likely outcome of a lawsuit and to bring about the desired result.

The outcome of a case often depends on seemingly innocuous facts, little details that can colour a case and have an impact on the reasoning of a judge when assessing the justice of a case. Judges are human beings and generally want to do the right thing, to see that justice is done. In weighing the merits of a case, taking account of the winding course a litigious matter can take and determining strategy and tactics in how to proceed, a litigation lawyer must assess the impact that small details might have in the outcome as this is crucial in the decision when to hold fast or fold.

Having exercised the judgment as to the most predictable outcome, having determined the strategy and tactics, the lawyer must then be prepared to and capable of executing. This means ability to form the narrative, shape the record, manoeuvre within the rules of court, compile and elicit the evidence, concentrate on the nub of the case that aspect which tilts the balance of justice in his or her client’s favour, to cross-examine with that end in view, and to advocate successfully to persuade a judge to find in the client’s favour. And all this must be done in a cost-effective basis for the client.

I am not aware of a computer or robot that can do that. I am not aware of a computer that can assess justice.