Everyday, we see a new technological tool that promises great advances for lawyers and the legal profession. As legal educators, we need to carefully evaluate these tools to determone whether they will help or hurt our students. The latest tool, Casetext's Compose, presents many dangers for lawyers and law students.
"Casetext is launching an AI driven drafting tool called Compose. Compose does not promise to replace lawyers – it offers to make lawyers more efficient by automating the first draft of a motion or brief. It can also function as a tutorial for a new lawyer who is assigned with drafting a motion for the first time. Casetext is currently working with a group of law firm 'partners' who will help them develop an expanded library of motions." (here) Read the bold-faced portion again--"by automating the first draft of a motion or brief." WOW!!!!!! Automation can write the first draft of a brief. Who needs lawyers?
The article continues: "The press release positions Compose as being 'poised to disrupt the $437-billion legal services industry and fundamentally change our understanding of what types of professional work are uniquely human. Casetext is certainly the first company I know of to successfully automate the drafting of substantive documents such as motions and briefs." Who needs lawyers?
Here's more: "There is no doubt that partners worry about associates research abilities and clients object to being charged for the time of few associates who are 'learning on the job.' Compose promises to dramatically reduce the drafting time for a motion which according to the press release 'often takes 10-80 hours of billable work: searching case law databases, consulting treatises, digging through brief banks, etc. Compose enables an attorney to construct a compelling, well-supported legal argument in 20 minutes.'" Who needs associates? Law firms no longer need to train their lawyers!
"The Compose process is remarkably straight forward. After selecting the motion type, a lawyer indicates whether they are representing the plaintiff or defendant. They select the jurisdiction and then the lawyer selects the issues to be addressed in the motion based on the facts and the motion is built through a series of clicks where the lawyers selects the best arguments supported by precedent."
Here is a quote from an actual law firm partner,
“Compose gets you 95% of what you need to file”
(According to the State bar of Texas (here), Mr. Ellis's firm size is solo.)
I tried Compose on their website. (here) The website asks you questions and fills in arguments based on your answers. It is as simple as "Paint by the Numbers," and produces as effective results.
When I first saw mention of Compose on the Legal Writing Listserv, I immediately warned the others on the listserv that Compose was dangerous to our students. I stated, "It undertakes cognitive processes that students need to learn. It seems as dangerous as Quimbee."
Legal reasoning and analysis involve particular cognitive skills. (See How To Grow A Lawyer: A Guide for Law Schools, Law Professors, and Law Students (2018)) Students need to acquire these skills in law school. Any tool that substitutes for the students' development of cognitive skills robs them of part of their ability to be lawyers. For example, case briefing, when done properly, is a key part of legal education because it develops the ability to analyze cases, along with other legal reasoning skills. Students' use of canned briefs takes this away from students' cognitive development. Oh, it is so easy to use canned briefs. Just have them in front of you in class, and you will never give the wrong answer. You don't have to worry about hours of class prep. Case briefs are wonderful. Except when exam time comes, and you get a C. It must be the professor's fault; she was a poor teacher and unfair tester.
The same is true of Compose, but on a more advanced level. Students need to develop arguments piece by piece. They need to be able to find the best cases for their particular facts. They need to be able to construct arguments based on their particular facts. They need to show in detail how the law applies to their particular facts. You get the idea. Compose does this for the students. As the testimonial on their website proclaims, Compose does 95% of the work. With Compose, students can become lawyers in a month!
In sum, law schools and law professors should keep their students far, far away from Compose. Students cannot attain mastery through shortcuts.
But, there is more: Compose takes away the very essence of being a lawyer--the human side. One of my legal writing colleagues, Kathryn Falk Campbell of Southwestern Law School, pointed this out to me, "While it seems that non-lawyers could potentially benefit at some level from a tool like this, I am gravely concerned that it could work a tremendous subterfuge in our justice system. The core of a lawyer’s work is to understand and articulate the nuances of the words and strategic choices of legal opinions, and to carefully appreciate and balance the values and impact of a multitude of perspectives, arguments, and outcomes. The need for the lawyer’s lens of human and social values is crucial to generations to come. A lawyer’s choices impact personal, social, and political order in communities, cities, states, the world, and - someday soon - the solar system and beyond.
The lawyer’s judgment is one of the largest measures of the lawyer’s professional worth. To substitute a program like this for the lawyer’s judgment abrogates the profession’s most fundamental duties. (emphasis added)
How can anyone LEARN to 'choose the best argument' without cultivating and relying upon an awareness and deep understanding of the numerous subtle energies, values, and other forces at play in making that choice? This is a fine tuned judgment skill."
Finally, as every lawyer knows, every case is different, and a cookie cutter approach just won't do it. Another commentator on Compose has noted, "My concern is that good lawyers approach every case as sui generis. There is no such thing as a “garden variety” case, even if the charges sound pretty much like the charges in every buy and bust ever. Find the difference, whether it’s in the facts or the defendant or the law or something. Find it. Create it. Make it happen. Think it. That’s why the defendant came to you, not to be a yeoman but a master." (here) He continued, "For the most part, a lawyer should already be fully familiar with his practice area such that a tool that generates the obvious isn’t needed. You know the case names. You’ve used them a thousand times in prior papers. You know the routine arguments for and against and could draft the suckers into a serviceable memo in your sleep." He concluded, "This is what I fear Compose is most likely to be used for, a quick and easy crutch for the terminally lazy."
Please look at Compose and judge for yourself. But, from my viewpoint, it is a dangerous tool for both lawyers and law students.
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