It's not a secret that world's economy is transitioning towards a data driven one. Although the legal sector is famous for its traditionalism and resistance to change, it is resilient and permeable to the digital transformation.
The hype (fueled by the latest advances in artificial intelligence1 and enabled by the changes in data storage and processing2 3 capacity) has already impacted the legal sector. However, only few players (compared to the total number of stakeholders in the legal sector4) have understood what is going on5. Awareness is rising6 but more than often in the form of fear to the robolawyer.
The legal sector faces a challenge. For the first time in centuries, innovation goes further than the invention of the poison pill. This is a change which some defend that could disrupt the core structure of the legal sector. Lawyers have been traditionally creative but never disruptive. What happens if lawyers have to rethink the whole legal industry? Absolutely nothing. The legal sector today has many problems:
1. access to justice is limited in many countries around the world,7
2. minorities are underrepresented,8
3. legal education and legal services are expensive,
4. there is lack of transparency,9
5. user perspective has been lost.10
The question therefore, is not if the legal sector is going to be changed by the use of predictive analytics. The question is how the legal sector can be changed for the better by the use of predictive analytics. This is the real challenge. Not an easy one to tackle.
For predictive analytics impact to be as significant as it shall be, it is necessary to build appropriate mechanisms that will enable a real transformation. In this sense, application of predictive analytics to the legal sector today faces its own problems:11
1. the legal sector has no culture of a data driven business,
2. data is not shared,
3. there is a lack of data trained professionals,
4. there are no reliable processes in place, and
5. there is resistance in letting outsiders in.
How can we encompass the problems of the legal sector with the problems of transforming it into a data driven business?
The answer is by creating a rich and collaborative legal community. Only if collaboration of different stakeholders occurs, it is possible to lower down the existing barriers for the transformation of the legal sector. The legal community shall create data common projects (in which data is shared to the public to foster innovation and discovery) and open source communities (where developers are able to contribute to a true digitalization of the legal sector). There are already some initiatives in this regard coming from the private12 and public13 sector. Creation of open communities will foster innovation and return the use of data to the wide public.
The legal sector should procure a balance between its different stakeholders so that a true open source and open data legal community is created. Only if key players play together it will be possible to change the legal sector for the better. By sharing resources, existing problems for the use of predictive analytics will be better solved and challenges of the legal system itself will be tackled in a more balanced way, guaranteeing better justice for all. In this sense, there have been recent developments questioning the use of machine learning14. These reactions have been quite significant lately in France where the use of predictive analytics in the criminal justice court has been banned15. Applying machine learning to the legal sector is not exempt of risk. This is the main reason for the recent European Union Initiatives of a human centered AI16, like the Ethics Guideline for trustworthy AI and in particular for the legal sector, the European Ethical Charter of the use of artificial intelligence in judicial systems17.
Questioning enriches the debate. Only by balancing different perspectives it will be possible to use predictive analytics for limiting the barriers for accessing justice18, enhancing legal education19, ending up with inefficiencies20 and fulfilling client's needs21.
Achieving equilibrium between the different forces in the legal sector is not easy. Private interests, divergence of opinions and bureaucracy will always play against it. Therefore, it is important to make existing players understand what is at stake. Fortunately, there are inspiring individuals, public and private initiatives and healthy discussions among the legal sector.
The legal sector is a complex system whose future it's nearly impossible to predict (even by using predictive analytics). However, there is a call for lawyers, law firms, alternative legal services providers, technicians, policy makers, public authorities, educative institutions and private businesses to collaborate in a creative way for creating a better legal system for the next ten years. Would you answer?