French Justice Ministry Sees ‘No Additional Value’ in Predictive Legal AI

The French Ministry of Justice, which was testing case prediction technology by legal AI start-up Predictice, has said that it sees no ‘additional value’ in the system, as compared to the analysis that its human lawyers could provide.

The ‘Non!’ follows the involvement of Predictice in pilots with several magistrates of the Courts of Appeal of Rennes and also Douai. 

The French AI company, which includes Dentons and Taylor Wessing among the law firms piloting its system, analyses past litigation case data in order to give lawyers predictive insight into their current cases.

The State-supported pilot led by the Directorate of Judicial Services, which is part of the French Ministry of Justice, said it had wanted to examine ‘these new tools, which have the ambition in the long term to bring a great added value to the magistrates and auxiliaries of justice in the analysis of case-law and, more broadly, to improve the predictability and transparency of judicial decisions’.

However, despite best intentions, the French State’s magistrates said that: ‘This software did not present additional value.’ This was because they already had the means to make such analysis themselves with their skills and the information they had on hand.

However, this may be missing the point of using an AI system, at least in part. One key reason for using an AI system is not that it will necessarily produce a far better prediction than an experienced lawyer who has enough time to consider all past case data, but that it will do so much faster than any human could.

With the speed also comes great efficiency and additional productivity, as the experienced French magistrates – who are more like investigating prosecutors in this civil law jurisdiction – can then spend their time on other matters, such as collecting evidence, or interviewing suspects.

That said, the relationship isn’t over. The French Ministry of Justice added in a statement that: ‘A new phase of experimentation, on a voluntary basis, with other appeal courts will be envisaged.’ Though, Predictice may have to add new features to its AI capability to win over the French Government. 

This involvement with regulators and State legal bodies raises some important issues for legal AI. In some countries, regulators and legal bodies have simply side-stepped the issue of New Wave legal tech and ignored it, allowing AI and legal tech companies to progress without much contact.

However, French legal tech start-ups in particular seem to be very keen to engage with the State and regional Bars, which is not the case in some countries. This may in part come from a greater sense of deference to regulators in France and also because of the local Bars’ formidable reputation for clamping down on any activity they see as possibly infringing regulations. Working with the State may also provide a powerful business development boost, i.e. if the local Bar approves of your tech then this will certainly help.

In others, there has been strong engagement, which has been positive. For example, the Law Society of England & Wales has acted as a promoter for the use of new legal AI technology, frequently holding conferences on the subject and generally showing its members that AI is a force for good. Though, as far as Artificial Lawyer can see, legal AI companies here are not seeking out legal bodies or regulators in the UK to gain approval or official bona fides, even if they’re happy to come along to events.

In this case, the engagement with French authorities and lawyers working for the State appears to have produced an unwanted result, not because the AI company was at fault, but it would seem because the local magistrates ‘didn’t get it‘ when it came to issues such as efficiency and increased productivity.

( Many thanks to Thibault Raisse, @TiboRaiss, for his assistance in this story. )

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