In late autumn 2020, a company called Lex Machina launched an analytics module for the New York County Supreme Court. ‘Analytics’ is a process in which a computer examines information using mathematical methods, to try to find useful patterns. In mid-December 2020, Lex Machina announced that it had completed coverage for all five New York counties. This is significant, as New York is one of the most important jurisdictions for commercial litigation in the United States.

Lex Machina (part of LexisNexis) is a company based in Silicon Valley, California. According to its own website [1] it is “a leading information provider and a pioneer in delivering trusted legal content and insights through innovative research and productivity solutions, supporting the needs of legal professionals at every step of their workflow.” So, what is the analytics module all about?

‘Big Data’ and the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in the law is a hot topic as we move into a new decade. The kind of data that Lex Machina’s analytical module is able to process may, according to Calum Chace in a recent article in Forbes magazine [2], allow lawyers to answer the kind of questions their clients want answering “in minutes, and with higher levels of confidence.”

The kind of questions that Calum Chace suggests clients want to know the answers to include how long a case will take to reach court, how serious a client’s opponent is, how good their client’s law firm is, whether a settlement should be offered (and, if so, when?), and, of course, ‘If this case goes to court, will we win?’ The analytical module should be very useful in attempting to answer these important questions, and quickly.

Of course, the use of AI and these kinds of analytical modules, throw up many important questions. These questions are important for the legal profession worldwide. They include, for example, questions such as:

· Will the use of AI and analytical modules mean that we need fewer lawyers in the future?

· Will the use of AI and analytical modules mean the role and function of lawyers (and, perhaps, judges) will change in the future? And, if so, how?

I am sure you can think of others. If not, you should try. The legal profession worldwide is, for sure, going to be changed by AI, and advancing technology, out of all recognition in the coming years.

One particular word from Calum Chace’s article that I enjoyed – and had not seen before – was ‘anecdata’. This is a portmanteau [3] word – and English loves portmanteau words – which is a blend of ‘anecdote’ and ‘data’. As Calum Chace’s article states, lawyers generally love, and rely on, anecdotal evidence and experience. It is often the kind of ‘evidence’ that lawyers rely on to advise their clients. It will be interesting to see how lawyers blend rapidly emerging resources, like those offered by Lex Machina, with their own experience. And, of course, to see how their clients react.


[2] Calum Chace (the ‘AI Guy’), ‘The Impact of Artificial Intelligence on the Law’, Forbes magazine, October 22nd 2020

[3] A portmanteau word (also called 'a blend') is a word which is made from two different words. One example of this is 'Brexit': a word made from two words, 'British' and 'exit'.

© Cambridge Legal English Academy 2021

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