The Profession, Artificial Intelligence

LSO lecture series tackles AI and tech’s impact on law practice

By Staff

A Law Society of Ontario (LSO) conference will explore through two days of thought-provoking panel discussion how innovation and technology impact the practice of law, says Toronto criminal lawyer Jill Presser.

It is part of the 2019 LSO Special Lectures series, says Presser, principal of Presser Barristers, and co-chair of the event.

“Innovation, technology and the practice of law is of huge interest, and any one of a number of topics within those parameters could be a two- or three-day conference on its own. The focus here is to give an introduction to a broad range of important subjects,” she tells

Presser will co-chair the event with Amy Salyzyn, associate professor, Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa, and Carla Swansburg, vice-president and general manager (Canada) for Epiq Systems, Inc.

It will take place Nov. 21-22 at the Hilton Toronto, 145 Richmond St. W. from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and will provide participants with 12 hours towards their LSO Continuing Professional Development (CPD) requirement — eight hours of Substantive, three hours of Professionalism, and one hour of the Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) professionalism requirement.

In-person and live webcast attendance options are available for participants.

The conference, which will feature a diverse panel of 15 presenters over the two days, will cover three areas, Presser says.

  • legal technologies and employing the kinds of tools that are becoming available within the profession
  • publicly available technological tools and how they impact the ability to access justice
  • the use of technology and artificial intelligence (AI) in substantive law

She says the use of legal technology opens a raft of topics for discussion such as the responsibility to keep yourself technologically up to date, whether a set amount of professional development in the area should be required yearly, and whether the use of technology will impact unevenly for different kinds of practice.

“We can well imagine big firms, national firms, well-heeled firms being able to afford such technologies. What about the sole practitioner?” Presser says.

“Are we holding that individual to the same standard as the big, multinational firm? Should we be weighing the fairness of that against the impact on the client if we don’t?”

Similarly, the use of public-facing algorithmic tools to improve access to justice also requires the search for balance, she says.

“How do we design tools that help the public access justice? How do we walk that fine line between having an AI tool that can, for example, help someone navigate their way through court filings without providing legal advice that would be problematic coming from an artificial intelligence source?” Presser says.

The conference will also explore the use of AI and technology in making decisions surrounding law, such as government assistance programs, immigration, policing, criminal justice, and family law, she says.

“Substantively, we have to ask how are these technologies changing the shape of the law as we know it, and how do we engage and respond to that?” Presser says. “How do we litigate against an algorithm that has made a decision that affects our client? What are the evidentiary impacts of that in a courtroom?”

Overarching these three topics is the big question, she says. What does the increasing emergence of AI and technology mean for the practice of law?

“Much has been written about technology being very democratizing. When we talk about public-facing technology, that’s a way of creating access to justice for those who may not be able to afford legal fees. But at the same time, one of the ironies of technology is that it can also be stratifying because those who can afford the latest technological tools may find themselves at an advantage over those who cannot,” Presser says.

“Also, there’s the question of how we remain current. In a world where (IBM’s) Watson can generate a legal memo that is much quicker and likely more thorough than your average inexperienced lawyer can produce, how do we continue to remain relevant and add value? How do we do those things that require humans — creativity, imagination, and crafting high value-added, complex and nuanced arguments?” she says.

“We have a very ambitious agenda ahead of us, and it should make for a very interesting two days of discussion.”

For more information and to register, click here.

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