Can a Computer Practice Law?

The answer is no but see this article, Automated Debt Collection Lawsuits Engulf Legal System, in the July 13, 2010 New York Times.  Here is an excerpt:

“Collection law firms are able to handle such large volumes of cases because computer software automates much of their work. Typically, a debt buyer sends a law firm an electronic database that contains various data about consumers, including name, home address, the outstanding balance, the date of default and whether interest is still accruing on the account.

Once the data is obtained by a law firm, software like Collection-Master from a company called Commercial Legal Software can “take a file and run it through the entire legal system automatically,” including sending out collection letters, summonses and lawsuits, said Nicholas D. Arcaro, vice president for sales and marketing at the company.” (emphasis added)

One doubts that “software ……can ‘take a file and run it through the entire legal system automatically….”  The legal system – rules of procedure and lawyer ethics rules – requires that  lawyers  take personal responsibility for invoking the power of the legal system such as initiating a lawsuit by filing a complaint.  Garbage in garbage out – a one to one ratio that absolves computer programs of responsibility for producing non-sense – is no excuse for lawyers filing a computer generated complaint based on inaccurate information or a lack of evidence in support of the allegations.  The risk of garbage in garbage out should rest entirely on the lawyer signing his name to computer generated documents making it possible for “software … to take a file and run it through the entire legal system automatically.”