February 27, 2024

Understanding Artificial Intelligence: A Primer for Mass Tort Attorneys

Author: Pawan Murthy

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is often surrounded by a whirlwind of hype, with promises of transformative capabilities and horror stories about its risks. As mass tort attorneys, you’ve likely encountered AI in various forms, from sophisticated tools like ChatGPT to more subtle applications in legal research and case analysis. The world of AI can be overwhelming, especially when it’s coupled with a pressure to adopt new technologies in your practice. However, understanding AI is the first step in harnessing its potential responsibly and effectively. This article aims to demystify AI, giving you a comprehensive overview of what it is, how it works, and how it’s already part of both your professional and personal lives.

The Major Components of AI

Machine Learning 

Machine learning (ML) is the cornerstone of AI, where algorithms learn from data to make predictions or decisions. It’s about teaching computers to learn from experience, improving their accuracy over time. ML can be used in predictive analytics for case outcomes, identifying relevant precedents, and sifting through large volumes of medical records efficiently.

Neural Networks

These are algorithms designed to recognize patterns, mimicking the way human brains operate. Neural networks are particularly adept at processing complex datasets. Neural networks can assist in analyzing complex patterns in case data, helping to uncover correlations between injury and exposure that may support or refute the current litigation efforts.

Natural Language Processing

NLP enables computers to understand, interpret, and generate human language. This technology is behind chatbots and voice-activated assistants. NLP can help understand complex queries in e-discovery. On the intake side, NLP can facilitate better client-lawyer interactions through AI-driven communication platforms.

Data Analytics and Decision Making

This involves using AI to analyze vast amounts of data to uncover patterns and insights, aiding in presenting the user with multiple decision options. This technology can be particularly useful in determining how a client’s medical history qualifies them as a good case, or if there are confounders that may disqualify them. The suggested path is presented to the reviewer to make the final decision. 

Expert Systems

These AI systems replicate the decision-making ability of human experts, using a rule-based approach. Expert systems in law could, in the future, provide clients with answers to simple queries specifically about their case, but defer to the attorney if there are more complex questions. .

Computer Vision

This technology enables AI to interpret and understand visual information from the digital world.

Computer vision is most commonly used by automated driving vehicles and in robotic manufacturing. In law, it can be utilized in evidence analysis, especially in cases where visual data (like images and videos) play a crucial role.

AI in Everyday Life

Artificial intelligence is part of our daily lives, often in ways we don’t realize:

  • Search Engines: When you type a query into Google, AI algorithms work in real-time to auto-complete your search request, predicting what you might be looking for based on vast amounts of data.
  • Voice Assistants: Devices like Amazon’s Echo and Apple’s Siri leverage NLP to understand and respond to your voice commands, making interactions with technology more natural and intuitive.
  • Social Media Ads: The ads you see on platforms like Facebook or Instagram are not random; they’re curated using machine learning algorithms that analyze your interactions and preferences to deliver content most likely to engage you.
  • Email Filtering: AI is also at work in your inbox, where algorithms filter out spam and categorize emails, making your digital communication smoother and more organized.
  • Navigation Apps: Applications like Google Maps use AI to analyze traffic data in real-time, suggesting the quickest routes and helping avoid congestion.

By better understanding how artificial intelligence works and recognizing how AI is working in our lives now, we can better appreciate its potential in the legal field. As with any new technology, law firms must approach AI with caution, ensuring the technology is adding value to the client, reducing risk and improving efficiency. Ultimately, the best use of AI is not about replacing human expertise but augmenting it with intelligent tools to enhance speed, accuracy, and decision-making.

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