In recent years, the legal sector has seen the introduction of numerous software designed to make legal work more efficient. In some cases, the software is able to automatically analyse court and tribunal cases or even produce “better quality” work than that traditionally done by paralegals. On the flip side, this software is also able to reduce legal costs, and work towards closing the justice gap by helping those who aren’t able to afford a lawyer or qualify for legal aid, access appropriate legal resources.
In May 2016, the world’s first Artificial Intelligence lawyer, ROSS, was hired at a law firm. Several other firms have since also utilised the services of ROSS which aims to support lawyers in their legal research. The development of technologies like ROSS aims to serve justice, especially for those who don’t have the means to access a lawyer.
In November 2016, in response to the number of people going to court unrepresented, a Melbourne law firm introduced an online robot lawyer. The robot lawyer is designed to help people present their case clearly in court by asking the client a number of questions before providing them with a template document they can read to the magistrate. Though not designed to replace a real lawyer, the robot lawyer does provide a base-level platform for those who can’t afford the exorbitant costs of legal representation.
Another free online robot lawyer, DoNotPay, initially helping people challenge parking fines in the US and the UK, has extended its services to help those evicted from their homes seek government housing. After the user answers several questions, the robot lawyer generates an application that is completed in a way designed to maximise your chances of success.
Groups have also been lobbying the Australian government to adopt the use of Rechtwijzer, an AI platform already being used in the Netherlands, UK and Canada. The program was developed with the aim of streamlining expensive court processes by encouraging dispute resolution through negotiation and mediation. In the Netherlands, Rechtwijzer is already being used to help spouses negotiate the terms of their divorce, including child support. In Canada, the program is even being used to resolve debt and tenancy cases.
Beyond the use of artificial intelligence in law firms, the influence of this new technology also has the potential to infiltrate court systems with a team of scientists and engineers at University College London developing an AI judge. Let’s just let the idea of an AI judge sentencing you to jail time sink in. The AI judge was able to analyse 584 cases involving alleged human rights infringements and in 79% of the cases, by identifying patterns between the cases, they were able to correctly predict the outcome of a trial.
The development of these AI programs and their integration into the Australian legal sector is undoubtedly a game-changer for the justice system and one to watch.