write ….A panel at the New York State Bar Association’s Annual Meeting looked at the ways AI can benefit, complicate and stifle the way judges and their courtrooms work.

A session on emerging technologies was held at the New York State Bar Association Annual Meeting. This event was at the Hilton Midtown in New York, on Jan. 29, 2020. Here, former Judge Katherine B. Forrest, of Cravath, Swaine & Moore speaks. Photo: Russ DeSantis Photography and Video LLC

Artificial intelligence won’t mean the end of the legal industry (or world) as we know it. But neither will it create utopia where new heights of insight and efficiency close the access to justice gap and take much of the guesswork out of the legal profession. The reality of AI’s future, and present, is far more ambiguous and complicated than that.

At the “Emerging Technologies in Litigation” at New York State Bar Association’s Annual Meeting, local and federal judges, an e-discovery researcher and an emerging technology attorney came together to discuss the way AI is, and likely will be, used in today’s courtrooms.

While some use cases presented potential benefits, others were troublesome, and one was downright frightening. Here’s a look at the highlights from the panel:

AI’s Place in Judicial Decisions

The use of AI in legal research is one area that has gotten a fair amount of attention in the legal world, both for better and worse. Gail Gottehrer, founder of an eponymous law firm focusing on emerging technologies, explained that such research platforms use past judicial decisions to “predict behavior and outcomes that different legal strategies will produce.”

And to some extent, she said, this shouldn’t be contentious. “Law is based on precedent, [and] if your case is similar and has similar factors to another case, the results shouldn’t be too surprising.”

Still, Gottehrer noted there is a limit to how effective these predictions can be. “Cases vary based on facts, the facts people view as significant, and that’s judgment, which is what AI does not do. … So will it guarantee a result to predict what a judge is going to do? I would say no.”

Still, some were optimistic that this use case of AI could ultimately prove beneficial. “I would love to know how I’m going to rule on any case because I’m very busy,” joked Judge Melissa Crane of New York City Civil Court.

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