United States: How Legal Tech Is Developing Lawyers' Intuition

Last Updated: July 25 2019
Article by Vidhya Elango

Lawyers' instincts, combined with careful research, allow them to present clients with a well-reasoned, accurate legal position: exactly what clients pay for. Seasoned lawyers have instinct, and a good lawyer might seem to innately know how a client's case is going to go just based on the facts. This sort of legal intuition is honed over years of experience in practice.

Fresh out of law school, new lawyers embark on a journey of developing their legal intuition by reading, researching, and handling many cases. Over the course of this development, lawyers repeatedly see similar cases and internalize the relevant legal tests, allowing them to quickly judge which facts are applicable and how a case might go if litigated.

Admittedly, it can be some time before this intuition is finely tuned⁠. In the meantime, firms are leaving untapped talent on the table. But legal technology tools leveraging advances in machine learning are a novel way for new lawyers to get a head start on developing the kind of legal intuition that will make them more efficient researchers and, ultimately, better professionals.

Developing Legal Intuition is Time-Consuming

New lawyers, fresh out of school, are still developing their legal intuition. While law school teaches students how to think about the law in a reasoned, objective manner, it doesn't teach the procedural quirks of each area of law, something that's picked up through practice, slogging through cases, and shadowing more experienced lawyers.

Abdi Aidid, Blue J Legal's Director of Legal Research and former New York City litigator, recalls, "As a young lawyer, one of the biggest challenges was being expected to perform like an experienced lawyer right away. I constantly had to familiarize myself with different areas of the law, so most of my day was spent reading cases to figure out the relevant factors. I didn't have a lot of extra time to think creatively about our clients' cases." 

As Abdi tells us, developing legal intuition is long and time-consuming for new recruits. One of the biggest reasons for this difficulty is that it's impossible to get immediate feedback when predicting how courts may rule on future cases. There's no way to test whether your instincts about the outcome of a case are correct, so new lawyers are left trying to pick things up by osmosis.

New lawyers' legal intuition is invaluable for senior lawyers too⁠—the longer it takes a new lawyer to learn about a specific area of law, the longer it takes for them to be fully integrated into the workflow of legal practice, and the more hours spent on training and teaching.

New recruits who hit the ground running with sharpened legal intuition can use their keen legal minds to the fullest and make an impact right away. Firms who leave this talent idle are missing out on valuable insights that could save them time and money.

How AI-Powered Tools are Training the Next Generation of Lawyers

Luckily, new lawyers have an advantage that their predecessors lacked while beginning their careers—access to the growing number of advanced legal technology tools.

Foresight is one such tool in the legal tech landscape that is helping to build legal intuition. Blue J Legal's software allows lawyers to validate their instincts against how hundreds of other judges have ruled on a particular issue. A new lawyer can input the facts of a case and change relevant factors to see what would happen if the facts were different, providing instant clarity. Being able to test a legal hypothesis in real time allows a new lawyer to quickly develop intuition.

For example, when trying to understand whether a client is liable for a trust-fund recovery penalty (IRS § 6672) under US law, a lawyer can use the Trust Fund Recovery Penalty classifier to test how a particular case will go, accessing an accurate prediction that is based on all of the relevant rulings in the area of law.  

A new lawyer can test what would happen if, for example, the company had been having difficulty meeting their financial obligations. Instead of waiting to come across a case where the company had been in financial trouble and reading through the whole thing, the lawyer can quickly review how this factor influences court decisions. They efficiently gain a sense of the relevant factors in the area of law and the influence that each factor exerts on a case's outcomes.

Abdi notes that, "One of the only ways to stand out as a young lawyer is to be an excellent researcher. With a tool like this, I would have been comfortable coming to a partner much later in the research process with more fully formed ideas, providing valuable insights to them far sooner."

Blue J Legal's software will help the next generation of lawyers learn the law more quickly and research more effectively than their predecessors. Their intuition can become useful to a firm far more quickly, freeing up billable hours for senior associates that might have otherwise been spent on teaching and training.

Legal Intuition in the Face of Uncertainty

Even for established tax professionals, such as accountants or tax attorneys, our Tax Foresight product can help provide confidence and rigor when dealing with complex issues on which they might take an uncertain tax position.

Determining the deductibility of trade or business expenses (IRC § 162) is one of the most common uncertain tax positions, according to the IRS. To tackle this uncertainty, a lawyer can use the Deductibility of Trade or Business Expenses classifier and get an accurate prediction based on the unique facts of their case. With the benefit of knowing how a judge would rule if the case were litigated and the ability to test how different scenarios are treated by the courts, the classifier allows professionals to give better advice, or file tax returns more confidently.

The Tax Foresight product targets several of the most common uncertain tax positions, with products like our Transfer Pricing case finder (IRC § 482) and Research Credit (IRC § 41) classifier, allowing tax professionals to understand how courts are most likely to rule in these tricky areas of the law.

We know how important it is to develop legal intuition, especially in new and difficult areas of the law. Both new and seasoned lawyers can benefit from the faster learning that foresight provides, and machine learning legal tech will be a boon to firms seeking to unlock the full potential of their new lawyers.

As the legal tech sector grows and firms increasingly embrace such technologies, using technology like Tax Foresight will become table stakes when delivering high-quality advice to clients and attracting new ones.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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