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Alchemy is a fascinating pseudo-science, long discredited as a real science; its fundamental principles still form the basis of many contemporary scientific theories. Alchemy is based on the premise that nothing in the universe is devoid of existential elements, and that these elements can be manipulated and even transmuted into other forms. The fabled Philosopher’s Stone is said to fulfil one of the main objectives of Alchemy, a legendary Alchemical substance said to be capable of turning base metals such as lead, into gold.

Example of Algorithm

As in Alchemy, the notion of “elements” in law is ubiquitous in literally every area of the law, there are prescribed elements of a crime, a delict (or tort), contractual agreements and so forth. The elements of law however, do not lend themselves to conventional scientific enquiry; the legislative provisions, common law and Latin maxims simply do not have any quantifiable mathematical proclivities. In math, 1+1 is an elementary platitude, in law, 1+1 is simply a foreign antigen, an anomaly the law simply cannot absorb and apply.

The scientific and mathematical ineptitude of the law is concerning, especially in a world where society has such little faith in an over burdened judicial system. Where there is so much slowness and uncertainty in legal processes, you would think that as a necessity, the law ought to know the answer to 1+1. I kept thinking that maybe if the law knew the answer to 1+1, it would be more precise, efficient, and quicker in its application. Perhaps if lawyers could discover a Philosopher’s Stone, we could turn the elements of law, into gold.

A mixture of sheer coincidence and subconscious intent led me to stumble upon my own Philosopher’s Stone, something that would breathe life into the scientifically inept nature of law, Data Analytics. Analytics is the computational analysis of data or statistics, this analysis allows for insights into patterns, predictions and decision making. Some Analytics tools include Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Mathematical Algorithms. I soon discovered that just like the Alchemists of old, Analytics would allow me to master the art of transmutation. Analytics would allow me formulate methods of taking the law and transforming it into unique forms of intrinsic value, not gold in this instance, but into calculable scales and metrics, into elements that are scientifically and statistically receptive.

The term “Algorithmic Lawyer” is tragically oxymoronic, lawyers are known for being eloquent, master tacticians in all things governed by law, not practitioners of advanced algorithms. Math has been known to induce the odd nervous twitch in even the best lawyers, however the prospect of providing clients with the most efficient and expedient legal services ought to make the twitch dissipate. The client’s needs always come first, even if those needs require lawyers to make uncomfortable adjustments. The cost of legal services has come under immense scrutiny as of late, with legislators even proposing a cap on legal fees. The quality of legal services is also a contentious issue, especially in the public sector. The general sentiment is that legal services for the indigent provided by state institutions such as Legal Aid and other NGO’s like law clinics are terminally inferior. This is a rather dubious assertion given the insurmountable work –load these institutions have to work through. The private sector is also not immune to criticisms of below par legal services, regular complaints by clients to the Law Society can attest to this.

As society continues to make technological advancements clients are beginning to compel their lawyers and legal institutions to make technological advancements along with it. The solution to the low quality and/or high cost of some legal services is purely an algorithmic one. The inherent efficiency of Analytics guarantees heightened legal precision and expedience that translates into cost efficiency for both lawyers and their clients. Famed legal technology pioneer and former CEO of SeyfarthLean Consulting Ken Grady puts it Aptly: “Lawyers and Law organizations that want to survive the re-structuring of the industry must become adept at understanding and using technology, including algorithms, to deliver what clients want in legal services. Waiting for clients to request such changes will put the organization at an extreme disadvantage. By the time the client asks, the need is so well developed that an unresponsive department or firm will be well behind the curve to develop an adequate reply”

This then begs the question, who is this algorithmic lawyer and what does he/she do? His day is made up of using predictive models that transform legal prediction from a purely speculative exercise into one of scientific and algorithmically informed conjecture. She is immersed in the world of Bayesian Theory, Generalized Sequential Patterns and Decision Science. He puts more time into legal strategy and problem solving than into onerous iterative legal tasks he knows Machine Learning algorithms would thrive at. She does not spend hours researching at the expense of formulating creative solutions, her research tools don’t merely give her a list of a few hundred cases that she still has to read through dealing with an isolated issue. Her Analytics models know the law inside and out, they give her intuitive research results in minutes. He need not read through entire judgements because a series of algorithms can read and process hundreds of them in seconds, draft the necessary pleas and subsequently predict outcomes and make decisions based on what they have read. He is not fettered by onerous drafting and manual document review, his Analytics processes can review a one thousand page document in minutes and through the use of Decision Science, direct him to the steps and decisions the contents of the document necessitate. The use of Pattern and Trend Recognition in contracts, legal transactions, statements and pleas is flawless. Not only can he predict the future, he is the future.
He is not a “glorified scribe”, a highly paid “paper-pusher”, he need not be. She knows the statistical odds of winning a case, she also knows how to mathematically increase those odds. He can predict after how many days a person is most likely to breach a contract and predict the type of breach and why. She can predict which legislative provisions are most likely to be contravened, by whom, why, when and what effect this contravention will have. The mathematical mitigation of legal risk is a seamless task both intuitive and simple; these are but some of the advantages of algorithmic legal processes.

Algorithms are all around us, they dictate social, economic and even political constructs; it is time they dictate legal ones as well. Legal organizations that have the ability to harness this power are vested with infinite sources of insights, strategy and efficiency. What does this all mean for lawyers and legal organizations that are not yet algorithmic? It means that the time has come to familiarize themselves with algorithms and Analytics as a whole because the private and indeed some parts of the public sector already have. They are also beginning to demand more technologically advanced legal services. Terminally disruptive over-hauls of legal processes will not be helpful; instead the systematic and gradual assimilation of the law and its application is what is required. The Analytics industry has to ease the legal field into the world of algorithms with easy-to- use intuitive Analytics solutions.

When we founded Gotham Analytics it was with the view to introduce a transcendent system of advanced law to the world. The law is an ancient art that is thousands of years old, that means thousands of years of data, of experience, of wins and losses that is lost forever if we cannot find ways to hone in on it. Analytics solutions are able to consolidate, rationalize and distil all of that data into simple algorithmic processes that enhance the potency of contemporary legal solutions. Data Analytics comprises of a great deal of things; a small aspect of those things is everything that is of Alchemy and Algorithmic Lawyers.

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Comment by Astrid Alfaro on May 30, 2015 at 1:04am

Fascinating!

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