What is Cognitive Computing or Artificial Intelligence?

Cognitive computing is the use of applications to make decisions.  The applications are self-teaching.  That is, an application “sees and remembers” patterns it finds in data bases to predict outcomes.

Why is Cognitive Computing the Future of the Law?

Lawyers are hired to predict legal outcomes.  They examine facts and apply the law to reach a conclusion.  They make recommendations based on analysis.  Cognitive computing does what a lawyer does through binary logic trees.  This process is “If A, then B” logic.

What Drives Cognitive Computing in the Law? 

The main drivers are costs, complexity and speed.  Starting associates in large firms earn about $140,000 per year.  Experienced attorneys in these firms earn about $360,000 per year.  Of course, the corporate client paying hourly fees is charged more.  Often the mark-up is 3 or 4 times the associate’s salary.

Complexity refers to the mass of unstructured data.  Unanalyzed data is useless.  Logic systems bring structure.  Cognitive computing not only searches and organizes data.  It analyzes it to make predictions.  The numbers of cases, the rulings, the parties, the outcomes, the judges are “data.”  Logic systems are predicting which judges when presenting with specific facts, argued by identified lawyers, will likely reach specific judgments.

Speed refers to time saved.  Lawyer hours shrink in performing search and analysis, and shift to performing strategic overview.  Further, clients need information faster to take advantage of opportunity.  Likewise, faster access to information reduces risks that problems will go undetected until there is a crisis.

What are the Implications for Lawyers and Their Clients?

Just as the driverless vehicles of the future mean fewer truck drivers, cognitive computing will mean fewer lawyers.  The future successful lawyers will shift from analytical thinking to creative thinking.  Lawyers have usually resisting being early adapters.  The competitive firms will be the ones that embrace cognitive computing.  They will hire attorneys who connect the dots in ways that leverage knowledge and opportunity.  This shift will be one toward a new legal personality.  The traditional lawyer’s first impulse is to say “no.”  The new lawyer will say “yes” or “yes, and . . .”  The reason is that cognitive computing will track a path of opportunity by pre-identifying the barriers to avoid.

What is the Likely Impact of Cognitive Computing for Employment Law?   

The future is real time risk analysis.  The risk for large companies is the class action.  Class actions happen because a singular decision, like a single cancer cell, multiplies throughout the system.  Cognitive computing allows for early detection and remediation.  A major employment defense firm has partnered with a Cognitive Computing firm to develop a decision tree for Human Resource professionals.  This application uses a short series of questions and answers to arrive at a conclusion that employees have been misclassified as independent contractors.  This use is a precursor to other applications involving other legal questions.  The application provides an immediate answer at a fraction of the cost.

But what about employee attorneys?  They especially should embrace cognitive computing. Online search engines 30 years ago marked a leveling of the field for the small plaintiff’s firm.  The same will be true with cognitive computing as employee attorneys cut costs and pre-screen cases.  Cognitive computing will democratize access to critical information, and lead to earlier settlements at less cost.

When Will Cognitive Computing Arrive? 

It is here.  Even with resistance by a conservative profession, it cannot be stopped.  IBM Watson, NextLaw Labs, Ross Intelligence, Thomson Reuters, Lex Machina, eBrevia, NexLP.  The arrival is manifest in the Employment Law arena as evidenced by the following quote:

“Cognitive computing enables robots to learn,” says Garry Mathiason, co-chair of the robotics, AI and automation industry group at Littler Mendelson in San Francisco. “In traditional software, the possibilities are mapped out and predetermined. This has limited the development and application of software-driven machines and robotics.

“However, this is dramatically changing with the introduction of cognitive computing. Modeled after human learning, smart machines process massive data, identifying patterns. These patterns are used to ‘create’ entirely new patterns, allowing machines to test hypotheses and find solutions unknown to the original programmers.”

Littler Mendelson is already leveraging this technology as a selling point for its employer clients.    The American Bar Association notes that artificial intelligence is transforming the legal profession.  ABA.  For an overview of Artificial Intelligence and it’s impact on the future of law, see:  The State of AI.  Finally, to see how employment law firm Little Mendelson is partnering with Neota Logic to add value, see Compliance HR.

Conclusions – Artificial Intelligence in the Practice of Law.

  1. Life will be better as clients save money and get answers faster.
  2. Highly educated lawyers from top firms will be freed to deliver intellectually stimulating work.
  3. There will be fewer lawyers.
  4. The lawyers that remain will be more adaptive and more creative.
  5. The timeline leading to dominance is shorter than you think: perhaps 20 years.  A new generation of lawyers will learn Cognitive Computing in law school.
  6. Human experts in every field of law will yield to expert systems.
  7. Employment law is one of the leading edge practices embracing artificial intelligence.
  8. Smaller plaintiff firms will gain advantage as artificial intelligence becomes more affordable.
  9. Will judges also be allowed to use cognitive computing to reach decisions? Answers will bring more questions.
  10. The conservative lawyer personality will be at risk as innovative lawyers dominate.