A column by Robert Ambrogi published recently in Above the Law may attract the interest of legal professionals for its comic or its cautionary value – depending on the reader.

Ambrogi details the reasons why, in November of 2018, Justice A.C.R. Whitten of the Superior Court of Justice in Ontario, Canada felt compelled to slice and dice the list of fees and costs that had been submitted to the court for approval by a team of lawyers following a judgment in favour of their client.

Among the judge’s concerns:

  • why two lawyers had been required for a case that seemed straightforward enough to have been handled by only one;
  • why “counsel had billed 26.5 hours to defend against a motion that is typically approved pro forma”;
  • why it had taken the client’s attorneys 80 hours to prepare a summary judgment motion that, Justice Whitten felt, should have taken 20 or 30 hours to complete.

The list of areas where Justice Whitten found fault with the submitted list of fees and disbursements was extensive, and it concluded – most notably, to the mind of the article’s author and others who have reported on the case – with a suggestion that given the capabilities of technology today, even the $900 bill for research could have been reduced with the assistance of AI.

Ambrogi points out that it is not clear what AI program might have assisted in this particular case, but he also correctly points out that Whitten’s opinion does suggest that in future, courts may well assess attorneys’ fees and costs in light of the technological assistance now available to them in addition to their own traditional expertise and resources.

In the meantime, although Ambrogi’s piece is entitled “Judge Penalizes Lawyers For Not Using Artificial Intelligence,” given that the list of fees and disbursements was ultimately cut by one third by Justice Whitten, it might as easily have been called, “Judge Penalizes Lawyers for Failure to Use Intelligence They Were Born With.”

As always, I am interested to know your thoughts on this or any other area of the law, either in the comments section below, or directly via email.