Cal. Litig. 2020, Volume 33, Number 1

Artificial Intelligence Will Transform the Practice of Law

By Rob Toews

Rob Toews is a venture capitalist at Highland Capital Partners in San Francisco. He holds a JD from Harvard Law School and an MBA from Harvard Business School.

At close to a trillion dollars globally, legal services is one of the largest markets in the world. At the same time, it remains profoundly underdigitized. Law is tradition-bound and notoriously slow to adopt new technologies. This will change. More than any technology before it, artificial intelligence (AI) will dramatically transform the practice of law. Indeed, this process is already underway.

The law is in many ways particularly conducive to using AI and machine learning. Machine learning and law operate according to strikingly similar principles: they both look to historical examples to infer rules to apply to new situations. Among the social sciences, law may come closest to a system of formal logic. Legal rulings apply axioms derived from precedent to particular facts to reach a conclusion. This logic-oriented methodology is exactly the type of activity to which machine intelligence can fruitfully be applied. A few practice areas are particularly promising for AI.

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