LegalMation: IBM Watson AI for Litigation

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Litigation is expensive.

Folks that don’t do much of it are often astounded about how quickly costs escalate and how much the process can cost. While the trial itself can cost upwards of $50K, just getting to trial with all the back and forth between the attorneys can cost several times that. A general rule of thumb is that unless the judgment is reasonably likely to be over $100K and include attorney’s fees, you’ll probably end up in the hole even if you win.

Litigation was one of the initial target industries for IBM’s advanced artificial intelligence (AI) platform Watson because litigation was so well defined and well documented. The promise was a significant reduction in costs for those bringing or defending against lawsuits and a far better way of determining if it was economically viable to bring or defend against the action to begin with.

Because I’ve been engaged in litigation myself for most of the last decade, this promise was something I personally have been eagerly anticipating. I’m at IBM PartnerWorld this week and one of the example customers was a firm that is taking Watson, using litigators and trial attorneys to train it, and applying the result to both reduce the cost of litigation and free up lawyers from some of the most grueling part of litigation.

Let’s talk about LegalMation, the firm IBM presented on stage, and what this could mean for the legal industry.

Making Litigation Stink Less

In a perfect world, when you were wronged, a system would automatically stop the damage and compensate you adequately for it.

We don’t — and are unlikely to ever — live in that perfect world.

The litigation process is far from perfect. It is a fight between two sides in a form of performance art where competing views of a past event fight for dominance using the leverage of prior decisions, which we call precedents.

For a time, I seriously considered being an attorney with the eventual idea of becoming a judge. As part of that process, I was mentored by a superior court judge and observed and participated in several trials, both real and staged, as part of the education experience.

I found arguing a case was a ton of fun. But I found the massive amount of paperwork that was required before you even got into count was so tedious that it eclipsed the fun.

Granted, a senior attorney would have associates that would do this work, but they still had to review it and stay on top of the process. In short, one of my personal concepts of hell would be a job where I had to constantly prepare, edit, and/or review these lengthy pleadings while keeping my brain from escaping out my ears due to the mind-numbing drivel contained in them.

The litigation preparation process isn’t creative. It isn’t fun. And it can be incredibly expensive for a client. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t important. If you mess it up, you could lose the case before you even get into court.

I believe that if you could use an AI to do this mind-numbing work, you could make the job of being an attorney far more fun. You could also substantially reduce the cost of the process, better ensuring that the people who were wronged get more of the resulting judgement, or if the defendant prevails, they take a far smaller loss.

In a nutshell, this is apparently what LegalMation does. It uses a combination of IBM’s Watson and some of the LegalMation team's own proprietary magic to do much of the work that attorneys who aren’t masochists hate. When picking an attorney, knowing what I now know, I’d favor one that had access to this tool over one that didn’t, just to better contain legal fees.

Dion Sanders And Time

As I’m finishing this up, Dion Sanders is on stage talking about time, how little we have of this fixed asset, and how we don’t know how much of this asset we have. The promise of AI, as IBM positions it, is to optimize our time.

Like a lot of boomers, I fully realize the end of my time is fast approaching, and that makes what I have left ever more valuable. No matter your profession, minimizing the time you spend doing annoying things and maximizing the time spend doing the stuff you enjoy — that’s what AI should be used for. And that is how LegalMation has focused its initial effort. It completes the annoying parts of the legal profession, allowing the attorneys to focus on doing the parts of the job they enjoy, with the side benefit of reducing, significantly, the costs (and risks) to the client, because folks doing things they don’t enjoy often make mistakes and AIs, properly trained, generally don’t.

Over time, you could see tools like this revolutionize the legal profession, not only helping attorneys do better but helping judges do better as well. And by better, I mean assuring the promise of litigation to reward the innocent and punish the guilty. Certainly, this is a far better future than some believe with AIs taking jobs and doing ugly things to the world. AIs should be focused on doing the parts of our jobs we hate, allowing us to enjoy our lives more. And the goal of making attorneys and particularly judges happier is a good one, because you don’t want to face an angry judge.

And let me reiterate, given a choice, I’d pick an attorney who was using a tool like LegalMation over one that didn’t because it would better assure the result I wanted and cost me less in the process.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.



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