The McGill Daily - - Contents - Sami El­laia Sci+tech Writer

Ac­cess to jus­tice is the abil­ity for in­di­vid­u­als to seek and ob­tain reme­dies for their le­gal griev­ances through for­mal and in­for­mal ju­di­cial in­sti­tu­tions. This in­cludes ad­e­quate ac­cess to le­gal in­for­ma­tion and ad­vice, me­di­a­tion ser­vices, and rep­re­sen­ta­tion by a lawyer. Sec­tion 10( b) of the Cana­dian Char­ter of Rights grants all cit­i­zens the right to le­gal coun­sel upon ar­rest or de­ten­tion. How­ever, such le­gal pro­tec­tion does not ap­ply to cases of bank­ruptcy or di­vorce, which can be just as press­ing. Ac­cess to le­gal ser­vices in all cir­cum­stances is not a con­sti­tu­tion­ally pro­tected right.

In Canada, many in­di­vid­u­als have dif­fi­culty ac­cess­ing jus­tice through the le­gal sys­tem due to its fi­nan­cial cost. Le­gal ser­vices are ex­pen­sive, and many peo­ple are forced to use their life savings to pay for them. The so­cial ef­fects of high le­gal costs may un­der­mine the jus­tice sys­tem by ex­ac­er­bat­ing ex­ist­ing fi­nan­cial in­equal­i­ties. High le­gal fees mean that rep­re­sen­ta­tion in the court­room is a priv­i­lege only few can af­ford. Such in­ac­ces­si­bil­ity risks the le­gal sys­tem be­com­ing not only an ex­pen­sive process, but an in­stru­ment to favour the rich­est while marginal­iz­ing the eco­nom­i­cally dis­ad­van­taged. This un­der­mines the rule of law, a ba­sic pil­lar of so­ci­ety hold­ing all cit­i­zens equally ac­count­able, the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion and law­mak­ers alike.

For­tu­nately, Ar­ti­fi­cial In­tel­li­gence pow­ered plat­forms could help de­crease le­gal costs and make le­gal ser­vices more ac­ces­si­ble. Ma­jor tech firms in Sil­i­con Val­ley and Shen­zhen, China have been de­vel­op­ing ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence sys­tems to over­take an in­creas­ing ar­ray of tasks and func­tions. Hu­man-like forms of ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence are com­monly re­ferred to as “Strong AI” or Ar­ti­fi­cial Gen­eral In­tel­li­gence ( AGI). Th­ese new­est forms of ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence could al­low ma­chines to take on “whitecol­lar jobs,” such as ac­count­ing, re­search anal­y­sis, fi­nan­cial plan­ning, and prac­tic­ing law. Such pow­er­ful ma­chines, in the­ory, could re­frame how we ap­proach a broad range of so­cial is­sues such as ac­cess to jus­tice.

AI in the le­gal sec­tor

Re­cent devel­op­ments in tech­nol­ogy show a greater use of ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence plat­forms to em­u­late a lawyer’s work. Mod­ern AI plat­forms can re­view and cre­ate le­gal con­tracts, re­view doc­u­ments to find ev­i­dence to be used in lit­i­ga­tions, inspect bal­ance sheets to de­ter po­ten­tial frauds, and even per­form due dili­gence be­fore a cor­po­rate merger. Th­ese tech­no­log­i­cal devel­op­ments have been used in prac­tice; Lawgeex, a startup com­pany spe­cial­iz­ing in le­gal soft­ware, has de­vel­oped a plat­form that al­lows firms to re­view le­gal con­tracts. Ac­cord­ing to the com­pany’s web­site, the soft­ware can com­plete a re­view 80% faster than a lawyer, while re­duc­ing the cost to 90%. Fur­ther de­vel­op­ment in AI ca­pac­ity and wider use of mod­ern soft­ware among the le­gal sec­tor can po­ten­tially lower the fi­nan­cial bur­den of le­gal ser­vice.

Adopt­ing AI in law firms

Ma­jor law firms have al­ready started to adopt AI to max­i­mize ef­fi­ciency. Den­tons, one of the world’s big­gest law firm, has re­cently started us­ing a le­gal re­search soft­ware pow­ered by IBM’S su­per­com­puter Wat­son, called ROSS. Be­cause the soft­ware un­der­stands nat­u­ral lan­guage, lawyers can ask ROSS for their re­search ques­tions in English as they would ask an as­sis­tant. In re­sponse, ROSS searches through the jurispru­dence and law, draws in­fer­ences, and pro­vides the lawyer an an­swer based on facts. ROSS’S speed and con­ve­nience trans­lates into less time spent on re­search. Ac­cord­ing to ROSS In­tel­li­gence, AI soft­wares may con­trib­ute to an in­crease of $8000 to $13,000 of rev­enue per lawyer based on the num­ber of un­bil­l­able hours saved. Aside from the po­ten­tial to im­prove ac­ces­si­bil­ity, devel­op­ments in AI also serve the prac­tice pur­pose of re­duc­ing the time and labour spent in re­search.

Still, us­ing AI to make le­gal ser­vices more af­ford­able has a long way to go. De­spite the nu­mer­ous ben­e­fits of an AI soft­ware, re­cent sur­veys of Cana­dian law firms show that they are re­luc­tant to be early adopters of AI. Jor­dan Fur­long, an an­a­lyst of the global le­gal mar­ket with Law21 ex­plained that, “When lawyers turn their minds to AI, one of the first ques­tions they are es­sen­tially ask­ing is ‘will it re­place me.’ That is the wrong ques­tion. It’s not about the lawyer. It’s about the client. The ques­tion a client will ask is whether us­ing AI will help me get what I need faster, more af­ford­ably or more ef­fec­tively, with a bet­ter out­come.”

Nelly Wat | Il­lus­tra­tor

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