Recently, several websites have featured stories about “e-discovery” computer programs that perform tasks traditionally reserved for low-wage attorneys. These stories beg the question whether advanced computer programs and large-scale network technology could someday displace a significant portion of the U.S. justice system.
The Atlantic posted a feature on its website titled, “iLawyer: What Happens When Computers Replace Attorneys?” The author, Jordan Weissmann, discussed how some litigation firms have employed so-called predictive coding search engines that can automatically sift through gigabytes of discovery materials without human input or intervention. He wrote, “Researchers have found predictive coding to be as accurate, if not more so, than the attorneys its replacing.”
According to the New York Times, “e-discovery” falls into two broad categories, linguistic and sociological. The first simply uses predetermined keywords to efficiently sort documents. The second, however, performs deductive reasoning and can visualize chains of events, “who did what when, and who talks to whom.”
Slate profiled Daniel Katz, an assistant professor of law at Michigan State University who is working on what he calls “quantitative legal prediction.” Katz’s goal is to develop software that can sift through thousands of similar patent cases to accurately predict the outcome of a particular case.