Average Americans not yet willing to entrust their legal fate to computers or non-lawyer assistants

The only national poll of average Americans on the civil justice system has found the majority of them are not willing to rely on either computers or non-lawyer assistants for legal advice. This is the conclusion obtained in the latest DRI National Poll on the Civil Justice System conducted in December by AmeriSpeak, a polling firm of NORC at the University of Chicago.

The poll results are highly relevant to the legal profession and the judicial system given the conversation surrounding the application of artificial intelligence and the rise of low-cost legal counseling services that employ non-lawyer assistants.

“There are many consumers of legal services in the U.S.” says DRI president John Kuppens. “Because most of the debate about the justice system takes place among lawyers, jurists, and policy-makers, DRI thinks it important to find out what the average person thinks about our civil justice system. You would probably get different answers to our questions if they were being asked of corporate purchases of legal services.”

When asked if they would be comfortable relying on legal advice provided by a computer, two-thirds (66.7%) of those polled said “No.” When asked the same question about receiving legal advice from someone who did not attend law school, the response was overwhelmingly negative (85.4%). Of those that responded “yes” to either question, their confidence was limited to transactional services like preparing a will or handling a real estate closing.

In another question regarding artificial intelligence, respondents were asked if they would rather have their cases decided by a computer generated formula, a judge, a jury, or an arbitrator who may or may not have legal training, The vast majority (87.1%) preferred a judge or jury. Only 5.1% would opt for a computer generated formula.

“This underscores the importance of the DRI poll,” said Steve Puiszis, chair of DRI’s Center for Law and Public Policy.

“Without the science of professional polling, any conversation about consumer preferences on legal services and other aspects of the judicial system are just a matter of speculation or personal bias. The DRI poll is a scientific reflection of popular opinion.”

Puiszis noted “there are important societal questions reflected in the DRI poll. All stakeholders in our civil justice system should be concerned about access to justice for those who need it. Corporations generally don’t have access to justice problems but individual citizens may.” So, are current alternatives like low-cost computer-based services an acceptable solution to those in need? For many average Americans the answer is “only in some cases” according to the DRI poll. Likewise, the overwhelming number of average Americans still want human beings adjudicating their cases.

The poll of more than 1,400 households was conducted by AmeriSpeak, a polling firm funded and operated by NORC at the University of Chicago. AmeriSpeakis a probability-based panel designed to be representative of the U.S. household population.

Randomly selected US households are sampled with a known, non-zero probability of selection from theNORC National Sample Frame, and then contacted by US mail, email, telephone, and field interviewers (face to face). AmeriSpeak panelists participate in NORC studies or studies conducted by NORC on behalf of governmental agencies, academic researchers, and media and commercial organizations.