In February 2016, the accounting giant KPMG announced that it had been working with IBM Watson, one of the most advanced artificial intelligence technology platforms available. An article describes Watson briefly: “It works by using natural language processing and machine learning to reveal insights and information from huge quantities of unstructured data.” [emphasis added] Notably, over a period of a few years Watson has digested hundreds of thousands of medical research papers on cancer and thereafter shown itself capable of matching the diagnoses of experts and suggesting new therapies. According to the TV show 60 Minutes, eight thousand cancer papers are published every day!
|A handful of law firms have announced that they are using Watson’s algorithms. One firm (Baker & Hostetler), it sounds like to me, has directed Watson to parse thousands of cases, law review articles, and briefs in the bankruptcy area. Whether that corpus of documents provides enough grist for Watson’s mill, since it is an order of magnitude or two smaller than the oncology set, remains to be seen.
My point is that the vast pools of text necessary for Watson to hone its skills to a proficient level may be rare in the legal industry. And, related to that point, experienced lawyers may need to devote hours and hours to coding some of the textual material so that Watson can pick out which patterns are most likely to be present in the coded results.