Law professor makes a case against automating legal writing

Katie R. Ochoa

Give a dozen good mathematicians the same issue, and they will give you the very same respond to. Math has an goal fact to it however, lawful writing is distinct.

As with math, there are rules and logic with legal creating, but it is an artwork type, special to every single author. So, give a dozen outstanding lawyers a temporary to publish, and they will each produce a exclusive doc that reaches the reader in its have way. There is no accurate or incorrect.

The idea of authorized writing as an art kind is 1 of the most tricky principles for law pupils to grasp—and understandably so. College students arrive to law faculty searching for to fully grasp “the legislation,” but they before long master that the law is generally unclear. They see that drafting a authorized analysis—in the form of a memo, a movement or a brief—is not as mechanical as solving an algebraic equation.

In my authorized crafting and investigation study course, college student writers usually talk to me issues like: “Should I analogize to another scenario?” “What is the finest term to use to effectively convey my argument to the reader?” and “Is this argument even very good?” These and other questions, the learners will find out, have no remedy, other than “It is dependent.” So in its place, we train ideas and capabilities, present feed-back and aid college students to produce their specialist authorized judgment.

Naturally, in the absence of mathematical-sort guidelines, some have tried using to replicate them by way of technological resources. Particular applications do just that, like computer software that checks quotations for accuracy or scans for circumstance citations, spelling and grammatical problems. Some instruments also have movement templates for quite standard responsibilities. People are generally quite useful to the active writer and do no meaningful harm in the law college ecosystem. Pupils, for illustration, have been making use of spellcheck properly in advance of they walked into law college.

Other applications, however, are beginning to go a lot even more and issue me as a law professor. BriefCatch.com, for instance, offers working with “natural language processing, equipment understanding, and synthetic intelligence” to make you audio like a Supreme Court justice. Yet another system, Compose.legislation (a product or service of CaseText), promises to deliver “all the arguments, legal requirements and prepackaged exploration you will need to get issues done, a lot quicker than at any time.” It has a motion library that automates the commencing of the drafting procedure.

Legal technological know-how is promptly evolving and, to the extent it can’t now, it will soon have the ability to research and publish authorized briefs, emails and memos, potentially, even without the need of our input. Whatever benefits superior authorized engineering may well provide to lawyers, I am concerned about this form of technology seeping into the legal producing classroom (and to be absolutely sure, it may perhaps by now have—we really don’t have reliable metrics).

The difficulty with legislation students making use of sophisticated authorized composing technologies stems from the actuality that crafting is an iterative expertise. As opposed to fixing for “X,” section of turning into a good authorized writer is experience. A collection of initially attempts followed by an additional round, and then a different, to no aim end. The battle to produce arguments, string with each other prose and develop skilled judgment in deciding upon text, circumstances and all the things in between is component of what it will take to grow into a fantastic, seasoned attorney.

My worry is developing as lawful technology is sprouting that not only identifies aim faults, but commences mimicking a lawyer’s hand and head. Innovative engineering like this may perhaps effectively reduce a college student from expanding into their complete probable as a law firm, replete with a probable deficiency of foundational qualified judgment as a author. We really do not want to spawn a technology of law learners less competent than their predecessors in our craft. That would be a shame.

So instead of applying software to bypass and switch the learning procedure, college students must test (and test again and once more) to reinforce their authorized composing muscle mass. Good producing and assessment arrives with observe. Learners must review the functions of wonderful lawful writers these kinds of as Main Justice John G. Roberts Jr., in addition to examining fantastic creating in novels, briefs and even journals. And of training course, regulation students have fully commited lawful producing college users who are eager to share their like for the law and teach their craft.

This is not to say that we must reject authorized technology—quite to the contrary. Legal educators need to embrace technologies where it tends to make feeling: electronic textbooks, on line investigate platforms, asynchronous lectures, and, in the confront of a worldwide pandemic, platforms like Zoom. These are easy propositions. We could also look at some of these new innovative systems in higher-level programs in a deliberate and thoughtful way.

But we need to be cautious of technological innovation where it has the opportunity to change the professional judgment that legislation students have to produce. A computer program simply cannot remedy a legal dilemma or persuade a judge, nor dictate how to proficiently symbolize a client. In legal composing and investigation, the magic and electric power of our put together text come in their variation, design and strategy—and most importantly, from our very own minds.

No pc can emulate that.


Michael A. Zuckerman is a seasoned attorney who teaches conversation and lawful reasoning at the Northwestern University Pritzker University of Law. Prior to joining the law faculty school, Zuckerman practiced law at Jones Working day and clerked for various federal judges.


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