Robots Understand Legalese Even If You Don't

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By William Vogeler, Esq. on February 25, 2019 6:00 AM

Stephen R. Williams is in-house counsel and a wishful thinker.

He doesn't believe the pundits who say artificial intelligence will take many legal jobs. He says robots have a long way to go before they replace him because of the nuances in his job.

Williams has a point, but robots don't have a problem with high-level legal tasks. The problem, in a word, is "legalese."

Legalese

So when your eyes glazed over reading 17th Century cases in law school, it wasn't that you had a problem. It was the profession.

Lawyers have built an industry on an outdated, nearly incomprehensible form of expression. They call it "legalese" because it is basically another language.

It's so bad that law schools are trying to unteach it. Congress has tried to unlegislate it. And AI is working on it.

According to LawGeex, robots are learning the "non-natural language" of legalese. In a recent study, the company found that AI can understand it better than experienced lawyers.

Better Than Lawyers

The underlying problem in legal tech is that the legal profession is slow to adapt.

Writing for Forbes, Mark A. Cohen says it's a cultural thing. Legal innovation is the rage, but there's plenty of resistance.

"Lawyers have their own language, writing style, regulations, practice and ethical standards, and they have created them to set the profession apart," he writes.

Cohen says it's time for the profession to evolve. For those mired in legalese, a robot translator could help.

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