Who’s better at making decisions – people or PCs? 

Maybe We Should Leave That Up to the Computer (NYTimes, 7/18/06, c4) reports that professor Chris Snijders of Holland argues that computers often make better decisions than people. He has experimental data supporting this hypothesis.

Before dimissing this as having relevance in law…. the article notes that “a Dutch insurer, Interpolis, whose legal aid department has been expanding rapidly in recent years, called in Mr. Snijders to evaluate a computer model it had designed to automate the routing of new cases — a job previously handled manually by the department’s in-house legal staff.” The law department manager reports the model is faster and more accurate than the old manual system. He’s quoted: “We’re very satisfied about the results it’s given our organization,” he said. “That doesn’t mean there are no daily problems, but the problems are much smaller than when the humans did it by hand. And it lets them concentrate more on giving legal advice, which is what their job is.”

Ok, so this example is not the main point of the article. It is still interesting for law department managers. Given how many surveys paint general counsels as unhappy about their outside counsel, maybe they should consider computer models to pick them.

More on the general point of the article in a future post.