Washington Law Review

Article

Machine Learning and Law

March 01, 2014 | 89 Wash. L. Rev. 87

What impact might artificial intelligence (AI) have upon the practice of law? According to one view, AI should have little bearing upon legal practice barring significant technical advances. The reason is that legal practice is thought to require advanced cognitive abilities, but such higher-order cognition remains outside the capability of current AI technology. Attorneys, for example, routinely combine abstract reasoning and problem solving skills in environments of legal and factual uncertainty. Modern AI algorithms, by contrast, have been unable to replicate most human intellectual abilities, falling far short in advanced cognitive processes—such as analogical reasoning—that are basic to legal practice. Given these and other limitations in current AI technology, one might conclude that until computers can replicate the higher-order cognition routinely displayed by trained attorneys, AI would have little impact in a domain as full of abstraction and uncertainty as law.

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