This is a draft abstract for a talk that I gave to the Northwestern University Computer Science faculty on April 22, 2019.
The rapid advancement of artificial intelligence presents many opportunities to improve law and society. At the same time, AI presents risks and potential harms. From a Law and Computational Technologies perspective, these opportunities and challenges can be separated into two categories. First, ethics, regulations, and laws that apply to technology. Second, the use of technology to improve legal-services delivery, justice systems, and the law itself. Each category also presents massive opportunities to use technology to preserve and expand the rule of law.
The deployment of AI raises many interesting questions about the application of existing law and regulation. AI also raises questions about the need for new law and regulation, including to ensure fairness, accountability, and transparency. Computational technologies also create opportunities to embed law, regulations, respect for human rights, and democratic principles into innovation processes and products, systems, and platforms by design and default. The goal ought to be to use law and regulation to guide the development, deployment, and maintenance of AI toward improving society, without unnecessarily impeding innovation.
Technology has also demonstrated the potential to revolutionize legal-services delivery, thus improving access to law and legal services for everyone. In the U.S., estimates are that more than 80% of the impoverished and more than 50% of the middle class lack access to legal services. Even some legal needs of businesses, large and small, go unmet. Computational technologies hold great promise for automating the delivery of various legal services across this spectrum. For basic legal needs, smartphones and other devices in the future could provide all users with an inventory of their legal rights and obligations, as well as solutions to common legal problems. Better yet, AI can foster Proactive Law to identify potential problems and prevent them from arising, or at least mitigate the risk.
As technologies advance, savvy lawyers will use them to augment their services. Innovative lawyers will embrace technologies that replace low-value, repetitive tasks and seize abundant opportunities to use technology to deliver greater value to clients and also contribute to interdisciplinary teams solving “wicked problems” for society. Updating laws and regulations for emerging technologies is one obvious area in which lawyers ought to be able to demonstrate that they can add tremendous value.
Innovation in legal-services delivery has been slow, however, in part because regulations traditionally prohibited lawyers from sharing fees with, and prohibited investment by, anyone who is not a lawyer. Consequently, lawyers and technologists rarely collaborate on legal-services delivery projects. But this is changing. An increasing number of lawyers today work with allied professionals to improve processes, better manage projects, embrace data-driven methods, and leverage technology to improve legal services and systems. Legal-services and lawyer regulations are evolving. And basic technologies and AI are slowly making their way into the legal industry, from legal aid organizations and courts to large law firms, corporate legal departments, and governments.
If we are to realize the potential to improve society with computational technologies, law, regulation, and ethical principles must be front and center at every stage, from problem definition, design, data collection, and data cleaning to training, deployment, and monitoring and maintenance of products and systems. To achieve this, technologists and lawyers must collaborate and share a common vocabulary. Lawyers must learn about technology, and technologists must learn about law. Multidisciplinary teams with a shared commitment to law, regulation, and ethics can proactively address today’s AI challenges, and advance our collaborative problem-solving capabilities to address tomorrow’s increasingly complex problems. Lawyers and technologists must work together to create a better future for everyone.
Michael Genesereth, Computational Law: The Cop in the Backseat, http://complaw.stanford.edu/readings/complaw.pdf
Gillian K. Hadfield, Rules for a Flat World: Why Humans Invented Law and How to Reinvent It for a Complex Global Economy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017), https://www.amazon.com/Rules-Flat-World-Invented-Reinvent-ebook/dp/B01LYZXIVU
Mireille Hildebrandt, Law As Computation in the Era of Artificial Legal Intelligence. Speaking Law to the Power of Statistics (June 7, 2017). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2983045
David Howarth, Law as Engineering: Thinking About What Lawyers Do (Edward Elgar Pub, 2014), https://www.amazon.com/Law-Engineering-Thinking-About-Lawyers/dp/178254013X
John O. McGinnis & Russell G. Pearce, The Great Disruption: How Machine Intelligence Will Transform the Role of Lawyers in the Delivery of Legal Services (May 13, 2014), 82 Fordham Law Review 3041 (2014) Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2436937
George Siedel and Helena Haapio, Proactive Law for Managers: A Hidden Source of Competitive Advantage, (Routledge, 2011), https://www.amazon.com/Proactive-Law-Managers-Competitive-Advantage/dp/1409401006