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Injecting Rationalism into the Artificial Intelligence Discussion

Ever since IBM’s Watson beat two jeopardy champs in 2011, there have been voices predicting that artificial intelligence will displace human lawyers.

To bring some light to this discussion, Vanderbilt Law School is hosting “Watson, Esq.: Will Your Next Lawyer Be a Machine,” billed as the first legal conference on the topic and scheduled to take place on April 13th and 14th.

In an interview, Larry Bridgesmith, an adjunct professor of law at Vanderbilt, said he hopes the conference will dispel some of the myths about the role of artificial intelligence, which he believes is more likely to enhance human lawyer’s work than it is to replace it — at least in the near future.

“I think that the scare that we are going to be putting thousands of countless professionals out of work is misguided,” said Bridgesmith. “[Artificial Intelligence] is neither a panacea nor an alternative to professionalism. It will require professionals to deliver services in a different way.”

In one example, he said lawyers will have instantaneous access to information that previously took time to research, which will mean clients may demand faster service.

Richard Susskind, who has written extensively about technology and law, perhaps most famously in his 2008 book “The End of Lawyers,” will be the keynote speaker. According to the agenda, other panelists include:

  • Andrew Arruda, whose firm ROSS Intelligence helped build ROSS, the world’s first artificially intelligent attorney, in conjunction with IBM Watson. Arruda will provide a demonstration of ROSS, which is currently being used by a subsidiary of Dentons, the world’s largest law firm, to handle research in place of the typical associate.
  • Andy Daws, vice president of Riverview Law in England, often referred to as “the most innovative law firm in the world.” Riverview created Kim, which serves as a virtual assistant that allows legal teams to make quicker and better decisions.
  • Dan Katz, associate professor of law at IIT – Chicago Kent College of Law (Illinois Institute of Technology). He is the editor of the International Journal of Law and Information Technology (Oxford University Press) and serves on the Editorial Board of the Journal of Artificial Intelligence & Law (Springer Scientific). He is also a member of the ABA Task Force on Big Data and the Law.
  • Irina Matveeva, head of machine learning at NexLP and an adjunct professor at Illinois Institute of Technology.

The conference is geared toward explaining how AI is affecting practitioners, both in-house and at law firms, academics and law students, technologists and others, Bridgesmith said. A full conference agenda can be found here.

“We hope people can  walk away with a new insight into how changing the delivery of legal services can be a benefit to clients, practitioners, technnologists, entrepreneurs,” he said. “It’s a multidisciplinary conversation that we want to invoke.”

The event will take place at meeting rooms in Vanderbilt Law School in Nashville, Tennessee.

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