In both Cass v. 1410088 Ontario Inc. (“Cass”) and Drummond v. The Cadillac Fairview Corp. Ltd. (“Drummond”) justices of the Ontario Superior Court made comments about artificial intelligence and legal research.
The Cass case was a slip and fall in which the defendant prevailed. The plaintiff, who was liable for costs, argued that defendant counsel fees were excessive and unnecessary. One issue raised was a $900 fee for case precedents, which the plaintiff argued, are available for free through CanLII or publicly accessible websites. Justice Whitten, perhaps also a lover of legal tech, agreed. He stated in relation to both the excessive amount of time counsel had spent on legal research, as well as the fee that, “[i]f artificial intelligence sources were employed, no doubt counsel’s preparation time would have been significantly reduced.” The defendant’s claims for disbursements was ultimately reduced from $24,300.67 to $11,404.08.
In Drummond, the defendant objected to the $1,323 claimed for legal research costs incurred using WestLaw. Justice Perell commented that the law is divided regarding whether a disbursement for legal research is a recoverable cost. One view is that legal research tools are simply part of a lawyer’s overhead and not recoverable, another is that they are a reasonable and recoverable disbursement.
Justice Perell’s own view aligns with the latter. In allowing the $1,323 disbursement for legal research he commented that, “computer-assisted legal research is a necessity for the contemporary practice of law and computer assisted legal research is here to stay with further advances in artificial intelligence to be anticipated and to be encouraged.” He further noted that, “computer assisted legal research provides a more comprehensive and more accurate answer to a legal question in shorter time than the conventional research methodologies.”
The message from the bench is clear, lawyers have an obligation to take advantage of the ways in which technology enables us to be more efficient. Neglecting to keep up with the times will cost you!