The Promise of AI for Positive Comparative Law

“For the rational study of law the blackletter man may be the man of the present, but the man of the future is the man of statistics and the master of economics” (Oliver Wendell Holmes, 1897). Thus opens Benjamin Alarie’s presentation, “The Promise of AI for Positive Comparative Law”.

The CEO of Blue J Legal, Benjamin Alarie stresses that a client always wants to know whether or not they will win in court. With the Blue J Legal software and its use of machine-learning, we can already answer this concern exceptionally well. Canada, as it turns out, happens to be one of the world leaders in this front.

What we are witnessing is therefore an evolution of the legal informational infrastructure, from books/paper/loose-leaf publications to digital ways of collecting information (such as mobile applications) and computational (with the use of machine learning, AI, and predictive analytics).

Benjamin Alarie gave a demonstration of his software (which for now focusses on tax and employment law). The way you would use it includes clicking answers to several questions about your case, and before you know it, the software predicts and explains your chances of winning in court. This prediction is based on every case that the courts have decided on the specific issue at hand. Highly sophisticated, the machine-learning model can identify similarities and differences in how judges exercise discretion across many different contexts (e.g. federal versus provincial).

Blue J Legal’s software will be developed in other jurisdictions, such as the US market. Questions remain, however, as to the usefulness of this software in civil law jurisdictions, although the way a civil code is applied can still vary in certain cases.

Benjamin Alarie concluded with a couple of predictions as to what would happen in the next several decades regarding his software: better legal outcome predictability, which would lead to faster and fairer dispute resolution settlements; significant changes in legal education, with emerging methodologies in legal reseach; more productive provision of legal services; and paradoxically, making the task of judging more difficult, since “easy” cases will be settled, while the normative and policy debates will be handed over to the judges.

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