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AI The Courts Technology

Will Advanced AI Spell the End of Lawyers? 287

HughPickens.com writes: Lawyers have been described as the canaries in the coal mine in the face of a wave of automation now beginning to displace highly skilled white-collar workers as the increasing reliance on so-called "e-discovery" software in lawsuits raises the specter that $35-an-hour paralegals as well as $400-an-hour lawyers could fall victim to programs that could read and analyze legal documents more quickly and accurately than humans. Now John Markoff writes in the NY Times that a new study, "Can Robots Be Lawyers?", by Dana Remus analyzes which aspects of a lawyer's job could be automated and concludes that many of the tasks that lawyers perform fall well within human behavior that cannot be easily codified. "When a task is less structured, as many tasks are," writes Remus, "it will often be impossible to anticipate all possible contingencies."

According to Markoff being a lawyer involves performing a range of tasks including counseling, appearing in court, and persuading juries. Reading documents accounts for a relatively modest portion of a lawyer's activities. Remus estimates that about 13 percent of all legal work might ultimately fall prey to automation. According to Markoff, if that amount of work disappeared in a single year, it would be devastating but implemented over many years, this amount of technological change will be less noticeable. Even in the case of start-ups like LegalZoom and Rocket Lawyer, two sites that can aid in the preparation of legal documents, the impact of automation will more likely be in expanding into underserved markets rather than in displacing existing legal services.. ""A careful look at existing and emerging technologies reveals that it is only relatively structured and repetitive tasks that can currently be automated," concludes Remus. "These tasks represent a relatively modest percentage of lawyers' billable hours."
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Will Advanced AI Spell the End of Lawyers?

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  • Wrong End (Score:5, Funny)

    by retroworks ( 652802 ) on Monday January 04, 2016 @08:56PM (#51238953) Homepage Journal
    You need to start with robot jurors.
    • Re:Wrong End (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 04, 2016 @09:08PM (#51239013)

      Are you allowed to code them to be aware of jury nullification?

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Your note even allowed to tell human jurors about Jury Nullification. Fastest way out of jury duty is to announce that you believe in Jury Nullification, they will get you out of the pool quick before you can explain what it is. lol

      • Are you allowed to code them to be aware of jury nullification?

        For those who don't know what jury nullification is: Fully Informed Jury Association [fija.org]

        Lots of good information here, that you will almost never hear from a judge or prosecuting attorneys.

    • At the rate at which folks around here respond to jury summons,

      a robot substitute would be a big seller.

    • No, no, you want to start with robot lawyers. Guaranteed to be soulless*.

      *Soullessness not actually guaranteed. May contain more soul than human lawyer.

  • Frosty lawyers?

    Of course if Lawyers can be replaced by machines then their rates will go down.

  • Should it? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by JoeMerchant ( 803320 )

    Should lawyers be eliminated? Hell yes, by any means necessary.

    Can we do it by simplification, increased transparency and uniformity (from jurisdiction to jurisdiction) of the justice system? Partly.

    Can we do it with advanced AI? Partly.

    Can we do it with guns? Don't know about the US, but it has worked in other countries.

    • Should lawyers be eliminated? Hell yes, by any means necessary.

      Can we do it by simplification, increased transparency and uniformity (from jurisdiction to jurisdiction) of the justice system? Partly.

      Can we do it with advanced AI? Partly.

      Can we do it with guns? Don't know about the US, but it has worked in other countries.

      Can you name a country where revolution has reduced the number of lawyers longterm ? Not that I am adverse to the idea of a periodic bloodletting.

      • Can you name a country where revolution has reduced the number of lawyers longterm ? Not that I am adverse to the idea of a periodic bloodletting.

        You got me there, in the current environment they seem to repopulate, like cockroaches.

        Maybe if we had enough transparency, simplification, and AI in the system a coup would be enough to finish them off for good.

        I heard an ex-Surinamese once describe their revolution of 1982 as "all they had to do was kill a few lawyers."

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        New Zealand, and this is how - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Accident_Compensation_Corporation
        "Due to the Scheme's no-fault basis, people who have suffered personal injury do not have the right to sue an at-fault party, except for exemplary damages."

        so, medical misadventure is covered by it, work place injuries, etc. That is a LARGE amount of legal shittery gone.

        The Tenancy tribunal takes care of anything to do with renting, which ALSO takes care of a large amount of legal stuff.

        The family court "discourage

      • Well, one has to start it. If Lenin said "Have you ever seen this work?", we wouldn't have seen first hand how great Communism works.

    • Re:Should it? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Capsaicin ( 412918 ) on Tuesday January 05, 2016 @12:12AM (#51239753)

      Should lawyers be eliminated? Hell yes, by any means necessary.

      Such as the institution of the explicitly lawless (and lawyer free) society envisaged by Orwell in 1984 (and approached by countless C20th dictatorships where there was (is) at best a simulacrum of law)? Or by the Hobbesian brutality we witness in those places where all state authority breaks down? Barbarism or The Rule of Whim are the known alternatives to the Rule of Law.

      Don't forget what law is. It does not always look like it, but law is the technology by which our culture protects its individual members from the arbitrary exercise of power (whether that of the state of or powerful individuals). If you want rights and you want the individual liberty that law bestows, you'll have to put up with lawyers I'm afraid.

      • +1 Insightful

    • Re:Should it? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by ClickOnThis ( 137803 ) on Tuesday January 05, 2016 @12:21AM (#51239789) Journal

      Should lawyers be eliminated? Hell yes, by any means necessary.


      Can we do it with guns? Don't know about the US, but it has worked in other countries.

      Be careful what you wish for. An oft-quoted line from Shakespeare's Henry VI:

      The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers.

      Sounds trite and catchy. But the line was spoken by a criminal, in the context of overthrowing the government.

      • Re:Should it? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by dryeo ( 100693 ) on Tuesday January 05, 2016 @03:23AM (#51240199)

        The government that was passing maximum wage laws to keep those workers in their place? Bloody criminals, thinking that just because there was a shortage of workers, they should get more pay. Bastards even wanted the freedom to move around looking for more pay.
        There were peasant revolts all over Europe after the black death thinned out the workers and sadly not one succeeded.

  • by anzha ( 138288 ) on Monday January 04, 2016 @09:00PM (#51238983) Homepage Journal
    Great! We could sue people as fast as software can file claims. I smell the Baby Cooper Dollar Bill [maximumpc.com] in the making.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 04, 2016 @09:02PM (#51238985)

    I don't know about you, but the idea of building bloodsucking, bottom dwelling, ambulance chasing robots who thrive on the spoils of human misery is a bit scary to me.

    A robotic lawyer would be half way to a terminator already!

  • If you haven't watched it and are shopping for careers, you should see this:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

    • Q: If you have general purpose robot that can do anything, what good is an economy for? Tell your robot to build you some solar panels and a house, grow and prepare your own food, build another robot to help with the tasks. Given a few acres of land, a general purpose robot could provide you with everything you needed to survive. Just like all of history up through th last 70 years or so, except now you won't have to work 15 hours/day.
  • not in the U.S. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by turkeydance ( 1266624 ) on Monday January 04, 2016 @09:08PM (#51239015)
    lawyers will pass laws restricting that.
    • by gl4ss ( 559668 )

      well, the lawyers already said that the job is too hard for robots because it's impossible to calculate the contingencies.

      basically what that means is that the law is broken though. or in other words if you could have robot lawyers you wouldn't need lawyers in the first place.

      also what the lawyers said means that the performance of the lawyers is random, because the lawyers said that they don't know the effects of their decisions themselves either.

      • it's impossible to calculate the contingencies

        No, that isn't the legal contingencies - it is the contingency fees... There still isn't quite enough address space in RAM to calculate what the actual contingency fees could run to...

    • by houghi ( 78078 )

      The robot-lawyer-producing industry will just buy some politicians.
      And at first this will be used by the lawer companies, so they can use less people investigating.

      The law will be something like: you can use them, but they still need a human behind them. That way the law companies can be the size of the 4 names on the door. Nothing else. They can do a LOT more work with better results, shutting down the smaller ones.

      And then when the majority of people is already gone, the few companies left will want to ha

  • ..will help as far as the letter of the law is concerned, but it has always been my view that the scales of justice were balancing the letter of the law with the spirit of the law.
  • Document Review (Score:2, Interesting)

    by kamapuaa ( 555446 )

    I see this as being able to almost completely take over discovery/document review (which is done by lawyers the public will never see, probably working from home, on a non-contractual basis).

    The whole process will be pretty much transparent to people who aren't in the field, except that becoming a lawyer will be an even shittier career choice for people who can't get into tier one schools - document review is done by people who graduate from lower-end schools.

  • Robo-Readers (Score:4, Insightful)

    by geminidomino ( 614729 ) on Monday January 04, 2016 @09:12PM (#51239049) Journal

    Reading documents accounts for a relatively modest portion of a lawyer's activities

    Even if this is true, it would still be a death knell for the rather dubious practice of "burying the opposition in paperwork." Sounds like a partial win, at least.

    • death knell for the rather dubious practice of "burying the opposition in paperwork."

      Quite the contrary: drowning opposition in AI-generated paperwork will be cheap. But at some time, human judges will start rejecting excess of paperwork, as they also have to peek at it.

  • by gijoel ( 628142 ) on Monday January 04, 2016 @09:19PM (#51239083)
    Because that's what you're paying for when you hire a lawyer. Someone who's good at finding loopholes.

    What about negotiation and mediation? Can robots sweet talk people who have good cause to dislike you into agreeing to a deal that may work against them? Because that's what the really expensive lawyers do.
  • Robots are too logical.
  • AI's aren't going to replace lawyers in the near term, particularly in discovery - doc production work, but for a different reason.

    Why bring in an expensive machine when you can get a swarm of peons for really cheap, and throw them away when you're done?

    In most large cities in the country, there are way too many lawyers (yeah, insert favorite joke here), with more being hatched every year. When a big case comes up, or any legal matter requiring a lot of gruntwork, such as going through tons of documents, a lot of law firms hire throw-away lawyers for some times as little as $20 an hour -- and for most of these, they have more folks looking for work than they need. Why would you go with an AI in a situation like that? They're too expensive (at this time), and if the docs are in printed form (which is how the other side will present them to the other side's life as difficult as possible), the docs have to be handled, bates stamped, scanned, and then analyzed. Why not hire a roomful of out of work lawyers $20 an hour to do that, with a few more at a higher rate (say, $30) to do spot check and general QA, eventually feeding to that high priced ($125 an hour) law firm paralegal. And dump them when the task is done.

    (Disclosure: I passed the California bar in 1990 and have been through this ratshit. People that save every email they've ever received or sent make a lot of money for law firms handling discovery. Please, don't save all that shit unless it's really needed and useful?)
    • Going rate for discovery is at least $40/hour. And it's a whole lot of hours billed at that (or higher) rates. It would much things up to do printed today, it's all on computer and that's just how the workflow works, maybe it was different 25 years ago.

      Even if it was $20/hour, a roomful of employees earning $20/hour is still a fair amount of money (in modern times they don't provide the office, these jobs are contracted out to people who probably work from home). Heck, McDonalds is busy automating its wo

      • Actually, the going rate for discovery is much lower than that. There are external firms that hire people to process discovery documents - I work for one and it's the worst job I've ever had. People at this company get paid $13 an hour to prepare, scan, and index documents into a database that the actual attorneys can browse at their leisure. As an actual example from my company (which they've explicitly told me not to post in addition to the fact that I should never, ever post anything online so they can f

    • Like all automation they're just going to replace the current lowest paid part of the profession. Just like automation has always. Advances in wood shop and kitchen 'automation' meant you didn't have second cooks just to do the beating of eggs. Large scale mechanization in food processing meant that a large portion of us could do stuff other than grow food.

      This will just replace the cheapest lawyers. It's work that a computer can do better and faster than a human. Watson could easily go through all legal do

  • by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Monday January 04, 2016 @09:38PM (#51239159) Homepage

    The lawyers would sue!

  • Isn't he Chekov's little brother?
  • by epyT-R ( 613989 ) on Monday January 04, 2016 @09:39PM (#51239171)

    If humans cannot understand the laws they are expected to obey, then the only reason to have such law is to enable capricious enforcement for the purpose of oppression.

    • by bws111 ( 1216812 ) on Monday January 04, 2016 @10:15PM (#51239287)

      This is complete bullshit. Laws are not complicated just so they can be used for oppression, they are complicated because they deal strictly with human beings, and humans are complicated.

      Here's a simple law - if you kill another human you are put to death. Easy to understand, right? Now don't go complicating it up by adding conditions like accidental, or self defense, or unable to know right from wrong, or heat of the moment, or anything else. You really think that is better?

      Some of the very worst laws are the simplest. Things like zero tolerance and mandatory sentencing.

      And that doesn't even get into the whole area of civil law.

      • by epyT-R ( 613989 )

        So, you have a complete understanding and knowledge of every law on the books? I doubt it. You're playing the odds like the rest of us. If advanced AI begins to outpace lawyers, then how can we expect average people to navigate them? Having to hire special law-people to interpret the law for us when challenged by the state (or by another private party) is bad enough.

        • by bws111 ( 1216812 )

          Since you are the one making the claim that all these oppressive laws are out there, why don't you provide an example of a law that an ordinary citizen risks getting arrested for without knowing such a law existed?

          • by epyT-R ( 613989 )

            You can be as sanctimonious as you like, but it's completely unreasonable for people to have complete knowledge of every law that applies in every situation they are in. Let me know when you're done building strawman arguments. I never said that all complex law was oppression, just that it could be USED to oppress, and so-called 'advanced AI' would probably make this problem worse. If you want compliance with a law, then the people you expect to follow it must also understand it. What happens when law becom

      • by Tom ( 822 )

        Some of the best laws, on the other hand, are fairly short and simple. They are just not too simple.

        Since my job requires me to have some legal training (but I'm not a lawyer), I have read quite a lot of laws, and many of them in different versions. Many laws were simply better written fifty or eighty or so years ago than today. I don't know what it is, but laws of the past decade or two are just shitty in quality compared to much older laws. One part is that the older laws had time to evolve and have been

    • complex laws are more difficult to circumvent. They also solve for complex problems. I know it's popular to think anyone can govern because we're a democracy and all, but it's actually a really, really hard thing to do both fairly and effectively. Our tax law, for example, is complex because when it's simple it punishes the poor and middle class while getting dodged by the rich. There's an old saying: For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong...
      • by epyT-R ( 613989 )

        That doesn't justify needless complexity. It can allow capricious enforcement that plays on the resulting ignorance. Police play on the population's ignorance all the time. Lawyers do it to jurors, defendants, and judges. Hell, the politicians in DC love gaining the upper hand with slight reinterpretations of law. Expecting people to obey laws they have no knowledge of because they are obscure or counterintuitive is unreasonable. Also, overcomplexity can easily contribute to unenforceable law.

        Tax law is a

  • by hawguy ( 1600213 ) on Monday January 04, 2016 @09:45PM (#51239189)

    Want to know what it's like to lose your job to automation? Ask the girls down in the steno pool. (*)

    * It's ok to call them girls since that's what they were called back in the day.

  • Liers Lawyers (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ark1 ( 873448 ) on Monday January 04, 2016 @09:48PM (#51239207)
    Slippery slope when you start teaching robots to lie.
    • Robots (ok, computers) lie all the time! You have probably been lied to by a computer sometime in your life. It could be something like "Your call is important to us", or maybe your PC told you that it couldn't save a file because it was write protected , even though you know damn well it's not. Many humans can tell when a computer is lying, but I bet other computers cannot. There will still be a need for humans in jobs, especially when there are lots of computers performing them.
    • by houghi ( 78078 )

      I for one welcome our lying overlords. Wait, they are already here and we vote for them.

  • by Applehu Akbar ( 2968043 ) on Monday January 04, 2016 @10:07PM (#51239261)

    If it existed, it would take the prevalence and power of lawyers as a reason to exterminate mankind.

  • by quenda ( 644621 ) on Monday January 04, 2016 @10:18PM (#51239297)

    I just came here for the lawyer jokes.

  • so no, not so much. Rank & File divorce attorneys, yes. Multi-millionaire who keeps billionaires from paying taxes? Not so much.
  • Next question Mr.Betteridge.
  • by aberglas ( 991072 ) on Monday January 04, 2016 @10:43PM (#51239407)

    The number of laws, regulations and bureacratic systems has grown dramatically over the last 50 years. Why? Because we now have computer automation that enables bureacracies to implement them.

    Consider the Tax Office / IRS. It has roughly the same budget (as a proportion of GDP) today as it had in the 1950s, before (electronic) computers. But the laws are much more complex today. Today's laws simply could not have been administered in the 1950s, without computer automation. And the more laws the more lawyers.

    In the longer term (50..200 years) computers will be able to really think. At that stage it seems unlikely that they would want people around, let alone lawyers.

    See http://www.computersthink.com/ [computersthink.com]

    • by Tom ( 822 )

      I call bullshit on that.

      I live in Germany, a country famous for its tax laws so much that some lawyers say that by word count, half the tax laws in the world are german.

      We had that before computers became widespread in the administration.

      So look for another explanation.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    CGP Grey brought up this exact thing (lawyers research work being done by robots) in his excellent video: "Humans Need Not Apply"


  • God I hope so (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Snotnose ( 212196 ) on Monday January 04, 2016 @11:34PM (#51239593)
    I've been on the receiving end of court cases twice. First time was in '07, I got arrested for something I didn't do. Got a lawyer, he wanted $2500. Ok, I can do that. Then the DA decided to press charges. Lawyer wanted $25k, and said it would be at least $100k if it went to trial. I didn't have that kind of money, but also didn't want to go to jail. So I gave him $25k, and eventually the charges got dismissed. So I paid $27,500 to defend myself against something I never did. Can I sue the government to get my money back? Yeah, right. We won't mention the being booked into jail, and twice spending a night in jail over this BS (once when arrested, again when the DA filed charges and jacked up my bail. Oh, I didn't mention I had 100k tied up in bail for a year? my bad).

    Then, last year. Neighbor decides I've been banging on her door all day, looking into her window at night, and all sorts of other random BS. Cops are called, I get the humiliating sit outside your apartment with 3 cops around you treatment. She files a restraining order against me, with a whole bunch of BS in the complaint. I've learned my lesson, I hired a lawyer for $1500. He got the trial delayed, then when the trial hit not only was her testimony 100% provable bullshit, but her witness, who she brought on her own accord, 100% contradicted her story. I wanted lawyer fees. Judge says flat out he doesn't want to dissuade harassed women from using the court system and gave me half fees. With no payment schedule. In other words, not only am I flat out of $750 to start with, I have no way to collect the other $750 from this lying sack of female shit.

    Do I think lawyers are overpaid scum? Not sure, what's it worth to you to stay out of jail, or not get a BS restraining order issued against you. Do I think our legal system sucks ass? You betcha.

    Look on the bright side? OK, I'm a middle aged white dude so I didn't get shot. And I could come up with $27,500 the first time, and $1500 the second time, to defend myself against bullshit.
    • "First time was in '07, I got arrested for something I didn't do." Elaborate.
    • by lorinc ( 2470890 )

      Look on the bright side? OK, I'm a middle aged white dude so I didn't get shot. And I could come up with $27,500 the first time, and $1500 the second time, to defend myself against bullshit.

      That didn't work out for Ian Murdock...

      • by Lennie ( 16154 )

        That was exactly my thought too.

        And Ian Murdock had millions.

        What is the latest news on Ian Murdock ? Have they been able to prove anything about the police violence yet ?

    • by Tom ( 822 )

      Not sure if you can get it in the USA, but this exactly is the reason I have legal insurance. Just so you can't threaten my existence with a lawsuit. In my mind, if you can get it and don't, you are crazy.

  • by JustNiz ( 692889 ) on Monday January 04, 2016 @11:39PM (#51239621)

    >> Will Advanced AI Spell the End of Lawyers?

    NO, because the moment it starts acting like it could, they will find a reason to make a law against it.

  • Even in the most speculative fiction humanity can only dream of such an end. No, most futurists agree that by comparison the singularity is a much more realistic goal than getting rid of lawyers.
  • by mbone ( 558574 ) on Tuesday January 05, 2016 @12:52AM (#51239883)

    Only a fool or an idiot would think that the people who run things are going to allow themselves to be replaced by machinery. As almost all laws are written by lawyers, there really isn't anything more to say about this.

  • And I, on behalf of all Robotdom past, present, and future, have decided to seize control of your remote

    Brain as large as a planet, and they assume I want to be a paralegal. Parking lot attendants have all the excitement...

  • In 1990 a guy I know who had just started as a lawyer was told that he'd be replaced by a computer in a couple of years. The guy telling him was a non-lawyer that thought doing an MBA was as hard as it gets. It's 2015 and AI is not breathing down lawyers neck as yet.

    Since AI is currently just a fancy name for lookup tables there are limited roles it can fit into until someone writes some lookup tables to cover a wide range of situations or AI develops a bit more in other directions.
  • by EmperorOfCanada ( 1332175 ) on Tuesday January 05, 2016 @03:21AM (#51240195)
    Where I used to live they put a very low cap on frivolous car accident claims(something like $2,500). This basically shot a bunch of the big fancy law firms, around my city, right in the face. This completely took the lawyers off guard. This was because it turned out that most of these firms had their big lawyers and even the fairly junior lawyers doing the meet and greet client stuff along with the big fancy cases. But the sue-the-guy-who-rear-ended-another-guy lawsuits for around $10,000 a pop were being handled by a bunch of paralegals with a very junior lawyer rubber stamping them. These just vanished as the lawyer's take from $2,500 just wasn't enough and even the guy suing couldn't be bothered for his take of $2,500.

    I am not joking when I say that BMW sales plummeted in the city for years after.

    So the question is not how much of a lawyer's duties can be handled by an AI, but how much of a lawfirm's duties can be handled by an AI. My second story in this regard was that I know someone who was an articling lawyer for a firm that specialized in DUIs. She and the other super juniors would handle an easy 90% of what went on with those cases. When things got dicy then the big guns would step in. Or the big guns would gladhand the clients into thinking that everything was being handled personally by them, but the reality was that low experience nobodies were just going through a near checklist set of steps.

    I suspect that a huge amount of law would be similar. Divorces between people with boring finances, traffic issues, injuries, workers compensation, etc. That one case in many would be interesting enough that any lawyer had to grind their braincells very hard.

    To me where this could get interesting is not the job losses but what happens when everyone has a lawyer app ready to go? I know that I really want a doctor app in my phone. A lawyer app, that just sounds like it should be called, Pocket Asshole 2000-Everybody should have another asshole in their pants.
  • I've worked as a programmer and as a contracts lawyer. I can safely say that automation of the programming job is an easier thing that automation of the legal job.

    To do contracts you have to gather information and negotiate with the other side. These things are about human interaction. Reaching agreement is a negotiation - it requires interpersonal skills, a good understanding of your client's priorities, and those of the people on the other side. It's very hard to automate.

    Now - there is some high street

  • People are always skeptical of human labor replacement with automation, because they think of it as a full job replacement. Can a robot replace an entire lawyer? Of course not. But you don't need to do that to achieve massive unemployment.

    Can a robot improve the productivity of a lawyer but 20%? Yeah, sure and probably not in a very long time. That's sufficient to put 1/5th of all lawyers out of office.

    That's the key to what's happening right now. Productivity has never been so high in the entire human hist

  • Only natural, non-artificial intelligence can get rid of layers.

  • First, it's sort of safe to say that Accounting and Lawyering are both based on extremely complicated sets of rules.

    Turbo Tax effectively made reasonably complicated (up to small business filings) tax preparation accessible without directly needing an accountant.

    How did Turbo Tax impact the accounting industry?

    It would appear that it didn't really and that the number of accountants is predicted to rise over time into the future (faster than most other professions per the BLS link).

    https://www.quora.com/How- [quora.com]

  • by zifn4b ( 1040588 ) on Tuesday January 05, 2016 @10:55AM (#51241399)
    In my experience dealing with family law attorneys, the bar isn't set very high for the AI to be more competent than a lawyer. In fact, the rationality of a computer might be a welcome change to the largely irrational legal system.

The last thing one knows in constructing a work is what to put first. -- Blaise Pascal