Computer Use in Legal Work: How Automation Software is Changing Law

Computers have been dominating the workplace these days.  In this modern world, companies have become ultimately dependent on computers when it comes to continuous or automatic tasks where humans are no match with when it comes to process time.  It completely eliminates the factor of “human error” and the inherent disadvantages of humans versus computers, such as the need to sleep or rest, the need for variety, etc.

Modern technology has enabled data to be sorted, collected and analyzed quickly and perhaps more cost-effectively when compared to hiring a number of people to work on them to collect and analyze the data and then paying them an appropriate level of wages and benefits.

Artificial intelligence allows data extraction, sorting and analysis to be tailored to the need of the client, wherein concepts that are identified using deduction processes can be added to their features.  These developments are leading to law firms where the majority of staff will be limited to those operating the machines alone – not to people doing the gathering, sorting and analyzing of the data.

Computer logic has become very much intelligent and has become, at times, more than at par with how humans think.  Computers are replacing workers at an alarming pace in many corporations – with the notable exception of tasks needing high levels of creativity.

Automation has become both good and bad for the economy.  Automation progresses as technology progresses.  Applications on computers are replacing the humans who used to do their jobs as computers do those jobs faster – often doing double the work that would be done in 8 hours by a single human being.

Economics will be greatly impacted by the changes in technology.  Although it may not directly create unemployment since people tend to get more and more creative in finding something to do for work, the advancements in technology will continue to grow.

E-discover, an application being used in the legal world, uses both linguistic and sociological logic in order to filter information when users search for information.  Apart from language, the social aspects implied in the searches will be included in the results.

Information-sifting has become so sophisticated that applications are already able to identify and deduce human interactions pertaining to events, telephone calls, emails, messages, etc.
They are also capable of decoding data used to cloak information being conveyed through these venues.

Cataphora, a software that analyzes data, is capable of “…showing who leaked information, who’s influential in the organization or when a sensitive document like an S.E.C. filing is being edited an unusual number of times, or an unusual number of ways, by an unusual type or number of people.”

It is also programmed to identify human emotions implied within an e-mail or a call.  Detection of shifts in human emotions can mean an alert implying illegal activities.

Clearwell, a program from a company in Silicon Valley, analyzes documents by searching for concepts, which simplifies material review in litigation.  In an example given by the company, an analysis task that would normally take an entire work week could be cut down to 3 days using the software.

Although computers may seem to have advantages in certain types of analysis tasks, the “human factor” involved in identifying relevant information still remains in the hands of the person operating the computer.

Taking for example the case of Enron, wherein over five million messages had to be processed for the prosecution,  Andrew McCallum decided to purchase a copy of the database for $10,000 for the University of Massachusetts and made it available for research, which made a huge impact within the legal community.

Although technology has its own limitations as when data need to be audited by a person, it still makes a huge impact in terms of how fast the work is delivered.

In terms of accuracy, humans commit errors – hence the term “human error”.  This is what Mr. Herr found when he back-tracked and did analysis on previous jobs to check the difference in results between humans and computers.  The 40% difference in accuracy he found in favor of computers leads us to think about companies, corporations and the legal profession as a whole, and the savings from expenses it will have when software as such is used.