Paul L. Caron

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Northwestern Law Prof Makes A Case Against Automating Legal Writing

Michael A. Zuckerman (Northwestern), Law Professor Makes a Case Against Automating Legal Writing:

The idea of legal writing as an art form is one of the most difficult concepts for law students to grasp—and understandably so. Students come to law school seeking to understand “the law,” but they soon learn that the law is often unclear. They see that drafting a legal analysis—in the form of a memo, a motion or a brief—is not as mechanical as solving an algebraic equation. ...

Naturally, in the absence of mathematical-type rules, some have tried to replicate them through technological tools. Certain tools do just that, like software that checks quotations for accuracy or scans for case citations, spelling and grammatical errors. Some tools also have motion templates for very basic tasks. Those are often very helpful to the busy writer and do no meaningful harm in the law school environment. Students, for example, have been using spellcheck well before they walked into law school.

Other tools, however, are beginning to go much further and concern me as a law professor., for example, boasts using “natural language processing, machine learning, and artificial intelligence” to make you sound like a Supreme Court justice. Another platform, (a product of CaseText), promises to provide “all the arguments, legal standards and prepackaged research you need to get things done, faster than ever.” It has a motion library that automates the beginning of the drafting process.

Legal technology is rapidly evolving and, to the extent it cannot now, it will soon have the capability to research and write legal briefs, emails and memos, perhaps, even without our input. Whatever benefits advanced legal technology may bring to lawyers, I am concerned about this sort of technology seeping into the legal writing classroom (and to be sure, it may already have—we don’t have reliable metrics). ...

 [W]e should be cautious of technology where it has the potential to replace the professional judgment that law students must develop. A computer program cannot solve a legal problem or persuade a judge, nor dictate how to effectively represent a client. In legal writing and analysis, the magic and power of our combined words come in their variation, style and strategy—and most importantly, from our own minds.

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