Legal Expert Systems - Robot Lawyers? (An Introduction to Knowledge-Based Applications to Law)
Proc. Australian Legal Convention, Darling Harbour, Sydney, August 1989
9 Pages Posted: 13 May 2013
Date Written: August 12, 1989
The most controversial aspect of the various attempts to automate legal tasks (‘the computer as a robot lawyer’) is the attempt to develop programs which give advice on the application of the law to a user's particular legal problem. These are usually called ‘legal expert systems’.
The first wave of artificial intelligence research of the 1950s and 1960s was characterised by attempts to create computer simulations of the basic building blocks of human intelligence. The second wave, which is still cresting, is characterised by a rejection of these ‘generalist’ notions of intelligence, replaced by a recognition of ‘the primacy of expertise’ or ‘the primacy of domain knowledge’.
This paper begins by considering the notion of legal expertise and the types of knowledge-based applications that might therefore be feasible and attractive in law. It then moves to a brief explanation of the components of an expert system. It concludes with an examination of some of the inherent limitations of the use of this technology because of the nature of legal reasoning, and a suggestion as to an appropriate way in which legal expert systems should be conceptualised. It concludes that the only feasible model is one based on the continuing interaction between an expert user-interpreter (a lawyer) and a semi-expert program, with control of the reasoning process alternating between the two partners to the interaction.
Keywords: legal information systems, legal expert systems, artificial intelligence, Australia
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By Harry Surden