Robot Lawyer Shaking Up Australian Legal System

  • iReviews
  • December 07,2016
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On the heels of a recent iReviews article featuring artificial intelligence and its impact on healthcare, Futurism published “Need Legal Help? Give This Robot Lawyer a Try” – an article showcasing the future of AI in Australian courts.

 

Unlike the U.S. legal system, Australian courts resolve smaller disputes without legal representation. Bill Doogue, a partner at defense law firm Doogue O’Brien George said, “You can get legal advice before a hearing, but are normally not allowed a lawyer and are expected to represent yourself.”

 

Whether it’s the Queensland Court and Administrative Tribunal hearing the smaller dispute cases or the Queensland State Government deciding the legalize around representation, defendants are not equipped to handle being questioned by magistrate judges. “Some people are visibly distressed and uncomfortable talking and giving monosyllabic answers to the magistrate when they have a story they should be telling,” Doogue said. The result: judgments in favor of plaintiffs and defendants unable to effectively communicate their side of the story.

 

In the hopes of preparing defendants for self-representation, Doogue’s law firm has launched the first robot lawyer in Melbourne, Australia. Programmed to offer the same advice as a legal aid service, defendants can enter their personal information and case details into a database and from there, the magistrate renders a decision based upon the data given by the robot lawyer. The robot, in essence, represents the defendant and eliminates the need for a hearing. This would free up the courts and at the same time, arm people with the resources needed to defend themselves.

 

Still in the early stages of development, Doogue’s robot lawyer has its limitations. “The robot has a number of hurdles that it places in front of people, but they have to be pleading guilty, it has to be minor offenses, and they can’t have priors,” Doogue said.

 

As with most artificial intelligence technology, whether it’s being used in business, healthcare or law, its effectiveness depends entirely on its access to big data. In iReviews article on healthcare and AI, Neil Lawrence, Professor of machine learning at the University of Sheffield and part of Amazon’s AI team said, “these systems don’t just require more information than humans to understand concepts or recognize features, they require hundreds of thousands of times more.” Lawrence says that huge tech giants like Google, Facebook and Microsoft are the perfect resources for AI. “They have abundant data and so can afford to run efficient machine learning systems.”

 

With regard to its ability to help Australians with their legal issues, AI appears to be an ideal solution even without the abundance of legal data. In an interview with ABC, Su Robertson, lecturer at the College of Law and Justice at Victoria University, who observed self-represented litigants found that “63% of such cases last no more than five minutes and 26% lasted two minutes or less.” No matter the level of charges, five minutes does not seem enough time to argue one’s side. If artificial intelligence in the form of a robot lawyer can seamlessly handle the due diligence around common Australian court cases, then Doogue’s law firm is poised to set a new precedent in both the legal professional and the technology sector.

 

With that being said, AI has yet to be perfected. According to iReviews, AI is failing to progress for three specific reasons: one, artificial intelligence requires a ton of ever-changing hard-to-get information; two, AI is unable to multi-task; and three, there needs to be more focus on how these systems reach their final conclusions. Lyria Bennett Mosi of the University of New South Wales associate law professor, acknowledging the challenges of AI in the legal profession said, “all tools have limitations, they don’t cover everyone’s case and they don’t meet the same need that services like legal aid services are consistently meeting.”

 

Whether it’s Baker & Hostettler’s hiring of IBM’s AI Ross to handle their bankruptcy department or Doogue O’Brien George’s launch of its robot lawyer in Melbourne, law firms are finding ways to incorporate AI into the legal profession.