University of Miami Law Review Explores the Impact of Technology in the Legal Profession

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The University of Miami Law Review explored the growing presence and impact of technology in the legal profession during its annual symposium, this year titled “Hack to the Future."

Will McGoveran, David James Knight, John Flood, and Daniel Ravicher

The event included a series of panel discussions on areas from artificial intelligence to cyber security to blockchain technology, and a forward-looking keynote address from American Bar Association President and UM Law alumna Hilarie Bass.

Artificial Intelligence and the Legal Field

The symposium’s first panel saw CEO and Co-Founder of ROSS Intelligence Andrew Arruda share insights on the impact of AI in the legal field: “What you’re seeing now, with these artificially intelligent tools, is that they continue to emerge,” he said. “In five to ten years, these things will be completely ubiquitous.”

 Arruda noted the potential of technology to shrink the justice gap. “Right now, 20% of Americans are the only ones accessing this legal system. And a lot of these tools will be able to open that up.”

He demonstrated the power of machine learning in augmenting a lawyer’s abilities with a web-based tool called EVA, which was released by ROSS Intelligence last month. The tool is capable of outputting a rudimentary case summary based on the input of a natural language legal research question relating to a particular case, among other things.

“Artificial intelligence isn’t about building robot lawyers; it’s about making human lawyers less robotic. It’s about allowing us to do and focus in on the things that we do really well, and enhancing what we do,” Arruda said.

AI and the Healthcare Malpractice – Better Than Human Doctors?

Professor A. Michael Froomkin also discussed artificial intelligence, but in the context of medicine. He gave a tour of several ways that AI technology is revolutionizing the healthcare industry.

“There’s a lot of reason to hope that AIs can predict potential scheduling conflicts in operating rooms and elsewhere.” he said. “This is actually being trialed in a couple of places, and the initial results are very promising: one academic children’s hospital claims a 25% reduction in same-day surgery cancellations, just by using an AI system.”

“Therapy is another area where there’s a lot of hope and progress through AI,” he went on. Froomkin cited a 2017 study at Vanderbilt University which applied machine learning algorithms to electronic health records, and found that AI was able to predict, with 80-90% accuracy, whether a patient will attempt suicide within the next two years.

Froomkin went on to discuss the legal implications of such innovations. “Once a machine learning system is provably better than the doctor at a given task, there’s a strong likelihood that malpractice law is going to push medical service providers into using the AI.”

Keynote Speaker Hilarie Bass JD '81 and the Future of Legal Education

Bass discussed the creation of the Commission on the Future of Legal Education, a body aimed at anticipating future changes in the legal profession and exploring alternative methods to training and testing law students, which she recently oversaw at the ABA.

“When I became president of the ABA last summer, one of my first decisions was try and reshape the path of legal education,” she said. “What the ‘Future of Legal Ed Commission’ is really focused on, is trying to align what we're teaching students in law school and the future skills they will need in 2050.”

The commission is chaired by Dean Patricia White, and consists of many notable members including celebrated futurist and author Richard Susskind and General Counsel of Spotify Horacio Gutierrez.

Bass went on to praise Miami Law’s pedigree of innovation; in light of the rapidly changing practices in the legal profession, she said, “The University of Miami is really at the forefront of looking at these issues.”

Big Data, Data Privacy and Information Security at Law Firms

William McGeveran, a professor of law specializing in data privacy at the University of Minnesota Law School, spoke about information security at law firms.  

“The fact that there’s so much data, and such sensitivity of data, makes law firms particularly vulnerable to damaging security breaches,” he said.  

McGeveran talked about the thesis of his forthcoming paper, which maps out a network of countless confusing, intertwining and often contradictory rule sets which impose obligations on custodians of sensitive data. In addition to these federal, state, and private-industry rule sets, lawyers in particular have the additional burden of abiding by the ethical obligations of confidentiality and competence concomitant with the profession.

Referencing the famous case of United States v. Carroll Towing Co, McGeveran proposed a simple and universal dictum as a solution to navigating these complex networks - “You have to have the burden of the precautions be less than the product of the probability and the magnitude of the loss.”

How to Secure Sensitive Information?

Amidst the rapid digitizing of confidential legal information, McGoveran called for a major upgrade in the way law firms secure their sensitive information: “When it comes to big data,” he said, “it’s a complete difference in the way you understand your information management systems. And that kind of disruption is going to require new security approaches.”

“I would ask you to imagine the law firm as it exists today engaging in, say, fingerprint reading or iris scanning for access to information. There are firms that I’m aware of that are already starting to do that,” he said.

Daniel Ravicher, Director of the Startup Practicum at Miami Law, recalled the abysmal state of cyber security at a law firm he once worked for. “I was able to guess the administrative password for the entire network on the second try. There was not even a logging that I had attempted to hack into the system, and when I notified the partnership that I was able to hack into their system as a second-year associate, I got in trouble”

“I left that law firm months later,” he added.

Legal Technology's Present and Future Impact on Law Profession

Legal technology is becoming increasingly pervasive throughout all aspects of the legal profession. In fact, a 2017 Thomson Reuters analysis revealed a 484% increase in legal technology patent filings from 2012 to 2017, with more coming from the United States than any other country. The way this deluge of digital tools will reshape the field of law is yet unclear, but Bass has a positive outlook.

“I believe that the use of technology will help lawyers become smarter, better lawyers, give the public greater access to lawyers, and give us all tools that will help solve our problems quicker,” she said. “It’s an exciting time to be a lawyer.”