Legal A.I. Is the Perfect #TimesUp Tool, Says Startup Attorney IO

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A new A.I.-powered service aims to give lawyers a speed boost in the age of “TimesUp” and other progressive causes taking on established powers.

Much like the DoNotPay chatbot that helps users fight homelessness and parking tickets, Attorney IO is about helping people navigate complicated law to fight for their rights.

“We focus on helping lawyers who are actually fighting in court,” Alex Stern, CEO of Attorney IO, tells Inverse. “If you have a small issue such as a parking ticket, I’d actually suggest DoNotPay. If you’re a lawyer taking a pro bono sexual harassment case and don’t have the resources to go up against a defendant’s army of lawyers, I’d happily let you use our services for free.”

The software was launched on February 21 by Stern, who graduated from the University of California, Berkeley’s law school in 2015. Working as a class action attorney in San Francisco, Stern spotted a need for better tools to trawl through documents. After all, if you’re the little guy suing a big corporation, the other team will have tons of money to throw at lawyers to find relevant case details. Attorney IO helps automate this process to augment a lawyer’s casework, comparing submitted documents to millions of collected cases.

“Historically, a party to a matter could often dramatically increase the odds of success by ‘scaling up’ their legal team,” the company explains on its website. “By adding more lawyers to a case, you increase the likelihood of finding the theory, argument, or judicial case that may ultimately sway the court your way.”

Attorney IO could help lawyers avoid sifting through libraries of documents to find relevant cases.Unsplash / Giammarco Boscaro

Taking a sexual harassment case as an example, Stern explains the system breaks down a legal document by the percentages that concern particular areas. A user may submit a document that’s 80 percent about a certain aspect of harassment law, 10 percent about a First Amendment defense, and 10 percent about a matter of judicial procedure. If the system finds a resolved case that discusses the same aspects with similar percentages, that’s a very strong match for suggestion, and the lawyer could cite it to strengthen their argument. The A.I. is continually improving with more data and better detection.

The company offers us of its legal A.I. at a rate of $5 per day for the first five days, but users can also submit applications for free or reduced cost subscriptions in the case of pro bono work. Stern sees the support of pro bono work and progressive causes as a crucial distinction between his product and something like Luminance, which focuses more on corporations conducting mergers. The tool can help lawyers state their case in some of the most complicated national lawsuits seen by a federal judge.

“It is not uncommon for a federal judge to issue a nationwide order affecting policy for the whole country,” Stern says. “For example, immigration policy, LGBT rights, and employment discrimination issues are all areas where a single lawsuit can do more good than a passionate senator.”

The software has been developed through a combination of in-house and independent contractors, with the team itself comprised of seven people. Stern uses the funds from his attorney work to self-fund for the seed stage — “the Mark Zuckerberg approach,” he says — working on cases like the Wells Fargo fake accounts scandal litigation in federal court, where he serves as counsel.

However, initial tests with the software suggest Attorney IO has some way to go before it becomes an indispensable tool. Robert Ambrogi, who runs Law Sites Blog, uploaded a brief that he’d recently filed. After about 90 minutes, the software e-mailed him to say that it had created two “clusters” of cases relevant to the brief.

“Attorney IO’s website offers few details on the A.I. that underlies it,” Ambrogi wrote. “I don’t what happened during that 90 minutes that it was evaluating my brief. I wish the results had been better explained and that they had included links to the actual cases.”

It’s early days, but Attorney IO could develop into a key tool for lawyers.