Genius, inspiration, hard work

By Connie L. Braun

Law360 Canada (July 5, 2023, 12:00 PM EDT) --
Connie Braun
Albert Einstein said, “Genius is one per cent talent and 99 per cent hard work.” Others say that success is 10 per cent talent and 90 per cent hard work or some other variation.

Doesn’t much matter to which of these sayings you ascribe, the main point is that hard work, and a lot it, is the most significant part of the equation. Inspiration helps, too.

Musicians practise countless hours to perfect the sound of a note, a phrase, a harmony. Athletes repeat drills endlessly. Dancers go through routines over and over. Authors review and edit their writing again and again. Ask anyone who takes responsibility for giving their utmost to do a job expertly.

During the summer months, partners and associates at law firms will often have law students undertake the research effort for them. Take the student, for example, who has received a request to find case law on copyright infringement in the area of artistic works for products imported from Europe with copyright registration in Canada. The fact statement includes this information and more.

Unsurprisingly, many students begin their research using Google. Nothing wrong with starting here as long as you understand that Google will never supply an answer to your legal question. Students soon realize that it is not as simple as hoping that starting here will do everything for you. It won’t! Every legal file is unique and requires dedicated attention to solve its problems.

There are, of course, different methods for conducting legal research. In any profession where research occurs regularly, individuals will discover the problem-solving process that works best for them. Previous education, life and career experience will influence how they begin and how they progress. Depending on need, available resources and situations, the exact method for conducting research may be adjusted over time. This is normal, particularly as new ideas, clever practices and suggestions from others provide inspiration.

Most law students will have little knowledge of the subject or the law as it relates to the fact statement. Without guidance or mentoring from a principal at the firm, the law student will most likely flounder. With guidance and mentoring in place, a law student will have a much better idea about what is expected and where to begin.

Working together, issues and problems that could derail a case can be avoided. With this kind of collaboration, that student might, for example, develop a step-by-step method for conducting research that they can follow repeatedly. Understanding the process and going through it without hesitation is more important than ever in this increasingly artificial intelligence (AI) enabled world.

No question that there is a place for artificial intelligence technologies in the legal research arena. Extractive AI may be very helpful with identifying issues and facts, crafting a search strategy, or identifying authoritative commentaries to read and understand. Generative AI may help in preparing a first draft of a document that will be presented to the principal. How successful generative AI can be will depend on the resources, content and process used for training these tools to aid the legal researcher. Human corroboration of generated results for truth, authenticity and dependability will be critical to widespread acceptance and use.

At this time and for the foreseeable future, individuals at any point in their legal careers will need to continue learning, understanding and interpreting information retrieved and generated as a result of legal research. AI is not sentient and is not designed to replace human thinkers. This means that any legal researcher needs to continue performing research process tasks individually and step-by-step. In this way, the researcher will have better awareness of what the AI technology is doing. And, along the way, assessing whether or not the content produced by AI is dependable and authentic, catching anything that may have gone awry. Not unlike math problems where you can arrive at an answer with a fancy calculator and opt to verify the answer with pages of handwritten formulae.

This is how things might work for lawyers and law students who have legal education. Could AI contribute to success in achieving better access to justice for self-represented litigants? Properly trained and tuned AI could provide answers to common legal processes and questions, assist with drafting documents and might be able to give guidance on other matters. Since AI is supposed to be about augmenting human intelligence, this seems like a very useful option that can help to alleviate barriers and cost, providing much needed support where it is rarely found.

No matter at what level of expertise you find yourself when in the legal arena, seasoned lawyer, student at law, or self-represented individual, there is always a place for solid research and good preparation. Along the way, AI technologies may very well assist with both the research and the preparation. Knowing that there are human and AI limits means taking a firm grasp of the process and managing it from start to finish, knowing that at least 90 per cent of what you do will be very hard work

Connie L. Braun is a product adoption and learning consultant with LexisNexis Canada.
The opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the author’s firm, its clients, Law360 Canada, LexisNexis Canada, or any of its or their respective affiliates. This article is for general information purposes and is not intended to be and should not be taken as legal advice.  

Photo credit / Ksenia Zvezdina ISTOCKPHOTO.COM 

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