Slaw: Complexity of Legal Writing and Analysis Still Stumps AI

Sarah Sutherland over at

Start-ups are pivoting away from legal analysis to subject areas that have more accessible datasets and less complicated source material, and those that haven’t frequently struggle to answer simple questions. There are many applications for automated analysis of legal documents, but as far as I can tell so far they tend toward extracting particular information such as judges’ names…”


Legal documents are some of the most complex writing in English, and it is unlikely that the nuance of what they mean will be an easy target.”

Curiosity from the Stone (Pre-Cameraphone) Age: Circa 1996

From a June 1996 opinion column in MIT’s The Tech newspaper (“…the first newspaper published on the web”):

I know people can currently take pictures of public things and public people and use them as they please. But usually there is some courtesy attached to photography…if someone asks me to leave them out of a picture, I oblige. Also, when someone else is using a camera, you can gingerly avoid the field of view…..I’m not suggesting Web cameras should be banned from public places. Not yet. I do think we should establish a norm of courtesy whereby people would, out of deference to others, keep these cameras to themselves.”

Lessons? Among them would seem to be that standards of behavior and etiquette evolve quickly with technological advances—and not necessarily for the better.

If you are wondering, the very first camera phone was introduced in 1996, according to Wikipedia at least, which was of course launched in 2001.

Legal Publishing’s Abandoned Ship Drifts Through the Doldrums

Over at Slaw, McKay and Rodrigues discuss the ditches into which market research often plunges, legal publishing’s disconnect from its customers, and the obsession with technology (and technicians) over editorial substance.

McKay: “I wonder if I’m correct in thinking that it (legal publishing) used to be enormously pleasurable, rewarding and creative but now appears, with some exceptions, to be desperately dull? Its dullness is reflected in its lack of innovation, its shift away from new product development and its failure to excite and engage with its customers and with its own people.”

Rodrigues covers the various errors encountered in customer research, such as that type of research that we might consider feigned market research:

“During my career, I observed any number of surveys or questionnaires used to develop new products and redevelop existing ones. In my experience, rarely did these surveys or questionnaires generate meaningful input from customers regarding product development. To me at least it seemed as if this method of conducting research was more form than substance…Sometimes the research…(occurred) after a product had been developed, to justify what had already been done, when only token changes in the product, if any, were possible. This was particularly true in the case of digital products, where changes resulting from a questionnaire or survey reflected what the developer was capable of doing, rather than what might need to be done to address customer concerns.”

Is this customer and publisher malaise due to the abandonment of editorial product development as McKay and Rodriguez suggest in their various columns?