by Disha Pathak
The arguments and disputes form a regular and normal part of our life, the solutions, conclusions and complexities of such things is what gets this life going. Whenever we come across the word ‘dispute’, ‘argument’, we turn to traditional lawsuits and heated courtroom exchanges. But roll back to the 21st century, and we already have some best ‘alternatives’ to settle our disputes. Alternate Dispute Resolution (“ADR”) is presently in vogue, to which more and more people are resorting. ADR is a mechanism which is popularly known as the ‘out of the court settlement’ and is being widely chosen as a viable option by those who do not want to get involved in the intricacies of a hyped courtroom battle. But with the developments in the field and law adapting to it more than ever, it has been expanding its wings to the technological era. Artificial Intelligence (“AI”) is one such futuristic technology which is assisting the world of law like a pro. Its amalgamation with ADR and what is its pros and cons is what is discussed in this article.
The meeting of ADR and AI
ADR, literally, means an alternative to the traditional disputes and consists of branches like Mediation, Arbitration and Negotiation. These branches involve professional intricacies which makes this process reliable for the people. The essence of this mechanism lies in the confidentiality and lack of court proceedings but with professional legal engagement. More or less the process of ADR is like a family discussion only in this there are “no ties” which makes it reliable since it is being handled with an unbiased perspective. Its advantage is that it engages clients and professional into close-knit discussion/ arguments, where the role of a mediator is crucial as it involves analysing the situation psychologically and legally.
With increasing advancements in the field of technology, the law is nowhere behind. ADR is itself a one of its kind and different from the traditional courtrooms.
AI, as we know in a layman language, is an artificial intelligence which exhibits “human like” but not human skills and runs on computer-generated algorithms.
The aim of using technology in the legal process is to ensure that there is more fairness and less violation of any basic rights or rules, keeping in mind the valuable time of persons/parties involved in the process.
Can AI be a game changer?
AI is certainly spreading its wings in many fields and making the lives of humans easier and smoother than ever. The big question is can AI possibly replace humans? It is still a highly debatable question. For now, what we know of AI is that it is capable of assisting the human race. ADR revolves around “how” this process is conducted.
The most important aspect which ADR covers is that the mediator has to be “unbiased” towards the parties involved. A human is known to have emotional capability hence a chance for being biased towards a particular party. For example, In a marriage dispute, the counsellor may be biased towards a certain party because of his/her personal experience or opinions. However, with the AI assisting the mediator, the session would be neutral, and decision making would become a lot more efficient and effective.
Almost all the disputes start and end with communication. In ADR, specifically Mediation, understanding the tone of arguments gives you brownie points in handling the situation well. The absolute leveller is interpreting the language and psyche of the clients. Now, what if one of the clients is lying? Not everyone can see the twitch or a slight movement of your pupil! Here technology comes in handy, and AI can handle the interpretation of the language. Natural Language Processing (“NLP”) is a branch of AI which through its mathematical algorithms can access and analyse the language and the accent of the principal source. One of its main aspects is sentiment and speech analysis which can assist for instance mediators during a Mediation between the clients. It can detect the “tone” of a person, thus assisting the mediator in between the negotiation and give a starter so as to further proceed with the line of action. It also helps when, particularly, there are multi-lingual disputes, AI can help in interpreting and translating the languages for the sake of parties.
BATNA (Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement)
AI is known to do critical analysis within a short time frame. Here, AI could be useful in analysing different arguments and offers made by the negotiating parties to reach a certain conclusion. The technical analysis could tell the negotiator that what offer would reap more benefits to the clients. In this way it would be fair to the clients also as it would be a technical and fair process and hence unbiased. This would give an option to the parties to weigh their choices before reaching any conclusion. For example, a system named Zeno facilitates online discussion for the municipalities and generates computer mediated legal arguments, differentiates the pros and cons of the arguments. The system here would not decide, but instead the information will be used by the municipality to get to a conclusion.
AI can now make our work much easier by stacking up thousands of files and information into just one database. In ADR, there has to be plethora of factual information of the case, of clients to know their background and for other legal purposes. Here AI would ensure that in less time more important information of the case is well articulated and stacked, thus ensuring less chaos.
Hurdles for AI in ADR mechanism
Technology can sometimes be overrated for its skills and capabilities. Everything comes with its pros and cons, and so is the case with AI. Though a progressive technology, but with increasing awareness about its potential misuse and violation of human rights it is high time to raise concerns about the same. Ranging from Data Privacy to the psychological effects of a person, AI is yet to be fully equipped for the same.
Section 18 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 guarantees that there shall be “equal” treatment of the parties. Equal treatment shall also include gender neutrality in the proceedings. Though machine can be trusted with unbiased opinions, however with less or skewed data it can possibly lead to biased and inaccurate results. A study of the Harvard Business Review suggested that skewed or incomplete dataset, labels used for training and modelling techniques are the reasons behind such bias. The problem here lies within the code generated by the individuals, and the dataset provided by the principal.
Psychological Issues/ Mind Games
Here’s a simple question, would you rather open up to a machine or a human being (with emotional strength)?
Majority of the answer would turn up to be human, because it’s only natural. ADR branches like Mediation, Negotiation and Arbitration are successful because of the mind plays of human lawyers/professionals. Now machines may or may not end up on settling the dispute on a desired note, but a human professional can understand the situation practically and may even bring the fighting parties to agree and settle on an amicable note. The difference between what goes in front of the eyes and what happens in back of the mind can be best solved by humans. One of the characteristics of a mediator is “The personality-probing skills of a good psychiatrist and fundamental belief in human values and potential, tempered by ability to assess personal weakness as well as strengths”. This is what differentiates humans from machines. AI could assist the process but for now the biggest challenge of psychological interpretation of the situation and how to respond to the varied emotions can be better understood by humans. AI could analyse from a text and even the language of the human, but humans can go beyond that, they can even read in between the lines and can presume that whether the statement has to be taken seriously at all or not!
Having discussed the pros and cons of the amalgamation of AI and ADR mechanisms, it can be asserted that AI is still in its cradle and has a long way before it can be fully adopted into the legal system. For ages technology, invention and innovation has operated in isolation, making it exclusive for certain fields. However, with changing times, there is an ardent need for increased awareness within the masses. Technology can be fully adopted in the legal field as long as it fulfils the criteria of protection of basic human rights. With a well-designed vision, perfect strategy and responsible execution of policies related to AI and ADR, it can be one of the biggest breakthroughs in legal-tech. At last, it can be said that AI cannot take over the reins where human brains rule. In future, it is a possibility that we have robot mediators, negotiators but certainly not without human interference.
About the Author
Disha Pathak is a 3rd year student pursuing B.Com LL.B (Hons.) student from UILS, Panjab University, Chandigarh.