Law, Decision-Making, and Microcomputers: Cross-National Perspectives

By Stuart S. Nagel | Go to book overview

Introduction: Decision-Aiding
Software and the Law

The purpose of this introduction is to describe the nature, types, examples, actual benefits, potential benefits, and relevant trends of the new decision-aiding software as it relates to the legal profession. The Introduction also provides concrete examples of the applicability of decision-aiding software to practicing lawyers, legal policymakers, and legal scholars. Those are the three parts of the legal profession toward which the chapters of this book are directed and by which they are written.


DEFINING DECISION-AIDING SOFTWARE

The essence of decision-aiding software is the ability of the software to process a set of: (1) law-related alternatives to choose among; (2) relevant criteria, goals, or rules for determining which alternative or alternatives are most appropriate or most likely to be chosen; and (3) the relations between each alternative and each criterion.

Any software can be helpful in making decisions such as information retrieval software like Westlaw and Lexis, which provide relevant citations and excerpts. We are now also seeing information-retrieval software that emphasizes trial court decisions, especially in damages cases, such as SettleMate and a forthcoming online version of the reports of the Jury Verdict Research Corporation. Even office practice software such as word processing, file management, and bookkeeping software can be helpful in making decisions by providing relevant reports. To qualify as decision-aiding software, though, the software should deal with five essential elements--alternatives, criteria, relations, tentative conclusions, and what-if analysis--either for prescribing what decisions ought to be reached or for predicting what decisions will be reached.

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