Bad news for paralegals: High Court says predictive coding can be used for document review

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By Alex Aldridge on

Artificial intelligence-based technique given green light


Wannabe lawyers across the nation will be sleeping a little less easily this evening after the High Court backed an artificial intelligence (AI) based predictive coding technique that allows documents to be reviewed by machines rather than humans.

The decision is the first contested application about the admissibility of AI-gleaned information in court — and could have huge implications for those entering the legal profession, who have traditionally cut their teeth on such work.

The case came about after boutique law firm Candey contested the use of predictive coding by megafirm Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP) in a large commercial dispute for which the two outfits were acting on opposing sides.

Candey expressed anxiety over the accuracy of predictive coding, which uses a sample of documents that have been analysed by a paralegal or junior lawyer to then sift many more documents at high speed. As it does so, it employs algorithms which learn from the data that has previously been processed.

But BLP said using paralegals would cost too much and actually result in a worse job being done.

And — in a crushing blow for humans — the court agreed with the City giant, holding that the test for use of predictive coding set out earlier this year in Pyrrho Investments v MWB Property had been met.

The ruling is expected to cause more firms to embrace predictive coding, which has already been approved in the US and Ireland.

BLP litigation chief Oliver Glynn-Jones said:

The technology will not only reduce the cost of e-disclosure, but also operates at a higher level of accuracy than a traditional human review. It also opens up new opportunities such as early case assessment, since it enables lawyers to quickly identify the most highly relevant documents at a much earlier stage than through a traditional review.