TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Artificial Intelligence And Its Implications For Lawyers And Law Schools

Robot Lawyer 2David Barnhizer (Cleveland State), Artificial Intelligence and Its Implications for Lawyers and Law Schools:

Billionaire investor Warren Buffett recently stated that capitalism inevitably cuts jobs in its quest for greater efficiency, productivity and profit.  That is what he says is going on with AI/robotics.  While lamenting this dynamic, Buffett did go as far as saying that government needed to develop strategies to help the “Roadkill” represented by workers pushed out of jobs that will not be recreated. If we accept the dismal placement figures for recent law school graduates, far too many are “Roadkill”, both because they find out on graduating that there is no place to go for work of the kind they anticipated, or any kind related to law, and because they are burdened by massive debt with little hope of being able to repay that obligation.

This brief look at the effects of technological development on law jobs and law schools is derived from research and analysis developed in a book I have been writing for the past year and a half, Artificial Intelligence, Robotics and Their Impact on Work and Democracy.   Although legal education and lawyers are not any direct part of that book’s focus, the developments described there are relevant to law schools and lawyers.  So, just “for fun”, the analysis offered below sets out some of the best predictions and warnings related to AI/robotics and asks readers to think about the extent to which the developments have implications for the traditional practice of law as we know it, for law schools as institutions, and for the delivery of legal education and law knowledge.

In setting the framework for this analysis I want to begin with understanding the potential of AI/robotics systems along with some predictions that are being made concerning how those technologies will rapidly alter our society and the nature of employment.  A report by researchers at the London Business School concludes there will be sweeping replacement of many human workers by robotic ones within the next twenty years.  Lawyers and doctors will be among those affected to a considerably greater extent than is generally understood.

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