China’s Supreme People’s Court has employed Faxin, a legal-services robot, which assists judges in sifting through reports and identifying laws relevant to cases.

Faxin is an artificial intelligence (AI) platform aimed at transforming China’s overburdened legal system. Faxin is not the only such product currently being used in China. FaXiaoTao, a chat bot, matches clients and lawyers while also analysing case law. 206, a system currently in its trial phase, is assisting Shanghai courts by detecting holes and contradictions in evidence presented in court.

While China has a civil law system, the courts are increasingly using case law to determine the outcome of cases. With more than 19 million cases a year and only 120 000 judges, the courts are relying more and more on AI.

While China’s cabinet has recognised the need to use big data and AI in the country’s legal system, building these AI platforms is not an easy task. It took 64 legal experts and 215 technicians to develop Shanghai’s 206.

Courts are not the only players in the Chinese legal field relying on big data and AI. Some 900 legal teams and 15 000 lawyers are using Alpha, a system supporting lawyers in working on specific cases. If, for example, a lawyer is working on a construction case and knows who the judge will be, Alpha will search all the similar cases the judge has dealt with. If it is apparent that the judge is a construction expert, the lawyers may decide to minimise their explanation of scientific aspects during the trial.

Similar platforms are aimed at in-house corporate lawyers connecting with legal professionals. These platforms also provide tools for companies to self-identify and solve basic legal issues.

None of these AI machines are aimed at replacing the legal professionals involved, but to lighten the burden and assist them to perform a more accurate and efficient task.