Bring on the legal robots


Jonathan Miller HeadShot

Having a robot successfully mediate a fee dispute is a great first step in showing how artificial intelligence (AI) can be used in our legal system, says Toronto civil and commercial litigator Jonathan Miller.

“I'm quite an advocate for employing technology to make the legal process more accessible and more efficient,” says Miller, associate with the Toronto office of Shibley Righton LLP.

“This seems like a reasonable tool to help with that,” he tells

According to a recent article, the “online tool, which uses AI algorithms in place of a human mediator,” settled the three-month-long dispute in less than an hour.

“These robotic mediators certainly have their place,” says Miller, “and it's exciting to see that technology is being used in a way to facilitate the legal process.”

The article says the software was developed by a British Columbia company.

“I’ve never used it,” says Miller, “but I think it’s an exciting prospect for the legal profession. Some judges have already said they believe lawyers should be using more AI to reduce costs.”

Miller says this program can only be used in cases where there isn't an issue of who's paying whom, nor of liability.

“It is limited to discrete issues that can be solved by a numerical decision,” he says,

The developer’s website gives the example of a telephone company going after a customer who has $2,400 in outstanding fees. He agrees he is delinquent in his payments but says he cannot afford that amount.

“Each party takes turns making offers using two sliders,” Miller says, explaining the first slider is visible to the other side, and the second one is not, as it indicates the maximum or minimum that party is prepared to offer.

Once the two sides overlap in their offers, he says the software announces a settlement has been reached.

“This will only work for simple cases without complicating issues,” says Miller, “particularly where there isn’t an issue of liability.”

With developments in AI, he expects the software will eventually be able to settle more complex cases.

“I think it can be expanded beyond being a simply a numerical settlement tool,” Miller says, “and be tailored to particular areas of law.”

He gives the example of an employment case, where the mediator must place a value on such factors as years of service, stock ownership and vacation time.

“There are several variables in most lawsuits that will come into play in mediation negotiation before both sides can arrive at a number,” Miller says.

“This program doesn’t account for that yet, but AI firms have to start somewhere.”

He says the reaction to this case will give insight into the legal community's willingness to use robotics in their work.

“When both sides are very practical and look at their dispute as simply a numbers issue, then something like this could be effective,” Miller says.

He predicts robotic settlement will catch on in municipalities such as Toronto or Windsor, where mediation is mandatory.

“A tool like this may be able to help settle simpler issues where a dollar value is being disputed,” Miller says.

“The software can help solve those issues, so the mediator’s time can be spent focusing on more complex problems.”

In a broad context, he says there is a real place for AI across our legal system.

“There are two extremes when it comes to this issue, with some people believing that AI is going to take over the judicial system, while others say it has no place in our courts.”

Miller says he is excited by the potential it offers.


Name and Title