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I'm Drew Breunig and I obsess about technology, media, language, and culture. I live in New York, studied anthropology, and work at PlaceIQ.

When will legal writing become a programming language?

New York Magazine reports on an interesting development in computer/human relations:

The Southern District of New York recently became the nation’s first federal court to explicitly approve the use of predictive coding, a computer-assisted document review that turns much of the legal grunt work currently done by underemployed attorneys over to the machines.

Last month, U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrew J. Peck endorsed a plan by the parties in Da Silva Moore v. Publicis Groupe — a sex discrimination case filed against the global communications agency by five former employees — to use predictive coding to review more than 3 million electronic documents in order to determine whether they should be produced in discovery, the process through which parties exchange relevant information before trial.

Analysts expect decisions like this to open the door for an eruption of computer analyzed legal work.

A few questions:

  1. How long will it be before lawyers are explicitly trained to write in a way which will be favorably interpreted by software?
  2. After this happens, how long will it be before legal writing evolves into a scripting language, more code to be compiled than words to be understood by humans? When will the first O’Reilly book be published for this language?
  3. Will computer/human standards emerge for other fields or discourses? SEO copywriting is already on its way. What other fields might follow suit? Sports journalism?