Stanford Law School’s Center for Legal Informatics (CodeX) will host the seventh FutureLaw conference on April 4, focusing on how technology is changing the legal profession and the law itself. Here, the founding director of CodeX, Roland Vogl discusses this, the upcoming FutureLaw conference, and more.
Technology is affecting many industries. How is technology changing the practice of law?
Information technology is coming to the law from many different angles. It facilitates legal search, it enables lawyers to process large amounts of information in new ways and make predictions around legal outcomes, it streamlines and automates legal processes, it enhances law practice management, and it provides for new ways to resolve disputes online. Many recent advances that make legal processes more accessible and affordable to clients are tech-enabled innovations for the legal workflow. Legal document automation would be an example of this.
However, much of the recent excitement around legal technology is about legal Artificial Intelligence (AI). The infamous “robolawyer” has become the often-referenced symbol for the purported disruption of the legal profession through AI. At CodeX – The Stanford Center for Legal Informatics, we focus on computational law, the branch of legal technology that is concerned with the automation and mechanization of legal analysis. Generally speaking, there are two AI approaches used in this area of legal technology.
The first is rules-driven AI where knowledge about the law is encoded so that a machine can engage in legal reasoning on the particular legal subject matter. Tax preparation software would be an example of this approach where the system works with a computer-understandable representation of the tax code and applies it to the situation of a specific user.
The second approach is the data-driven, statistical AI approach, where AI systems scan large amounts of data that are then used to identify interesting patterns or even make predictions about certain legal outcomes. For example, an algorithm can go through the entire body of decisions made by a judge and then make a prediction about how that judge will decide the next case. Similarly, many companies are using data-driven AI systems to do contract analytics, scanning thousands of contracts to identify potential errors and risks hidden in the contracts.