Are Computers Smarter Than Lawyers?

Posted on 10-26-2017 by
Tags: AI , artificial intelligence

Computers can beat humans at poker . . .check.

Computers can beat humans at chess . . . check.

Computers can beat scientists at identifying data patterns . . .check.

Clearly, artificial intelligence (AI) has a growing track record of wins over humans.

Will lawyers be next? Some friendly competition might tell us.

Lawyers vs. Computers: A Legal Battle

This fall, case predictions will be at the center of a competition between U.K. attorneys and computers. Teams of lawyers will be pitted against predictive software in a week-long challenge. The challenge will answer the question: which side can more accurately predict whether already-resolved payment protection insurance (PPI) complaints were upheld or rejected by the Financial Ombudsman? (The narrow topic was chosen because mostly commercial law firms volunteered for the challenge.)

If the computers don’t win this one, it’s only a matter of time until they do. AI technology is evolving rapidly, and many organizations have their sights set on legal applications. It’s hard to see a future in which tech isn’t always the champion in case predictions. So if it doesn’t matter who wins this one, the real question should be: why aren’t more lawyers working with AI instead of pitting themselves against it?

Better Than A Crystal Ball

AI's predictive abilities are distinct from the technology that aims to substitute computerized chat-bots for human legal advice. Data analytics is a tool to help lawyers be better lawyers, to guide them to places they can’t or don’t have time to go on their own. 

Analytics can track trends from prior behavior, like how often:

  • a firm settles and for how much; or
  • a judge grants a certain type of motion.

Predictive analytics kicks it up a notch. It takes that prior behavior—housed in huge volumes of data—and using space-age concepts such as machine learning, predictive modeling and intelligent algorithms, it makes predictions about future behavior.

Applications run the gamut. It’s possible to use data from thousands of cases with similar fact patterns to assess a case’s viability. Predictive analytics can provide:

  • Cost analysis of a case.
  • Probable timeline.
  • Likelihood of a particular outcome.
  • Probable award value.

Want to hire another attorney or firm to collaborate on a case? Predictive analytics can identify the best targets. Wonder if legislation will pass? Analytics can help you be better prepared.

No Guarantees

Naturally, nothing is fool-proof. Judges, lawyers, juries and clients often deviate from their norm. Neither man nor machine is always correct in predicting how those players will behave. Still, much is possible when you combine the power of human and machine. You’ll have sounder, more successful legal strategies than if you’d relied on humans alone.

So, it's okay to root for lawyers when they’re competing against machines. But when the competition is done, it’s better to root for lawyers and machines. Because together, they can accomplish so much more. 

Interested in learning more about AI and the law? On November 1, 2:00 p.m. ET, join Dennis Garcia, Assistant General Counsel of Microsoft, for the FREE webinar: 

Artificial Intelligence & the Legal Profession 

Register at

All industries – including the legal profession – need to be open to digital transformation in order to achieve more and better serve clients. Artificial Intelligence AKA “AI” has the potential to change the legal industry. This webinar will explore the following areas:

  • What is AI?
  • Possible AI Use Cases in the Legal Profession
  • Potential Challenges Associated with AI
  • How Your Law Firm of Corporate Legal Department Can be “AI-Ready”

About the Speaker

Dennis Garcia is an Assistant General Counsel for Microsoft Corporation based in Chicago. He provides a wide range of legal support to Microsoft’s Sales, Marketing and Operations teams across the United States. Prior to joining Microsoft, Dennis worked as an in-house counsel for Accenture and IBM.

Dennis received his B.A. in Political Science from Binghamton University and his J.D. from Columbia Law School. He is admitted to practice in New York, Connecticut and Illinois (House Counsel). Dennis is a Fellow of Information Privacy, a Certified Information Privacy Professional/United States and a Certified Information Privacy Technologist with the International Association of Privacy Professionals. He serves on the Board of Directors of Illinois Legal Aid Online and the Association of Corporate Counsel – Chicago Chapter.  Dennis also is a member of the Illinois State Bar Association’s Standing Committee on the Future of Legal Services.  Follow Dennis on Twitter @DennisCGarcia.   


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