Some Requirements for a Computer-Based Legal Consultant

L. Thorne McCarty

Although the literature on computer-based consultation systems has often suggested the possibility of building an expert system in the field of law it is only recently that several AI researchers have begun to explore this possibility seriously. Recent projects include: the development of a computational theory of legal reasoning, using corporate tax law as an experimental problem domain; the development of a language for expressing legal rules within a data-base management environment; the design of an information retrieval system based on a computer model of legal knowledge; and the design of an artificial intelligence system to analyze simple tort cases. This paper attempts to identify the principal obstacles to the development of a legal consultation system, given the current state of artificial intelligence research, and argues that there are only certain areas of the law which are amenable to such treatment at the present time. The paper then suggests several criteria for selecting the most promising areas of application, and indicates the kinds of results that might be expected, using our current work on the TAXMAN project as an example.

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