You might be excited to read in a recent New York Times article that computer software is replacing “armies of lawyers.” The really exciting thing is that the software can help negotiators!
Not too long ago it was commonplace in big lawsuits for the discovery process to result in a huge pile of documents, each of which had to be reviewed by a lawyer. Now software has replaced much of this labor-intensive work. The software can “go beyond just finding documents with relevant terms at computer speeds: they can extract relevant concepts…” (Markoff, page 1) The software “can deduce patterns of behavior that would have eluded lawyers examining millions of documents.” (Markoff, page 1)
This software has moved way beyond mere keyword searches! Some of the software packages can now show the timing of events, changes in style or tone that signal attempts to hide information, positive or negative communication, “loudness,” concepts, etc. The software can analyze, say, a million documents in a day, shortening the number that need to be reviewed to a few thousand. Those can be examined by lawyers.
What does this capability mean for negotiation? Markoff (page A15) reports on a negotiation in which a plaintiff and defendant used software to analyze their own documents. Because they better understood their own situation they were able to negotiate more effectively. Understanding your own position is a valuable tool in negotiation.
Source: John Markoff, “Armies of Expensive Lawyers, Replaced by Cheaper Software.” New York Times, March 5, 2011, pages A1 & A15.
Berton Lee Lamb