Paul L. Caron

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Will Artificial Intelligence Really Destroy Legal Jobs?

AIFollowing up on my previous posts:

Legal Tech News, The News of Attorneys' Demise Has Been Greatly Exaggerated (With Apologies to Mark Twain):

There has been a great deal of coverage about the possibility of Artificial Intelligence (AI) replacing the legal profession, stimulated in part by a recent conference at Vanderbilt Law School titled Watson, Esq.: Will Your Next Lawyer Be a Machine?

Some warn that the world’s first artificially intelligent attorney is imminent and that it is only a matter of time before technology gives rise to new ways of delivering professional services and ultimately replacing the traditional lawyer. Yet others think that the human element is critical to the practice of law and cannot be so easily replaced.

While AI has come a long way, replacing lawyers is not on the horizon. 

Larry Bridgesmith, an adjunct professor at Vanderbilt Law who helped coordinate the school’s Law and Innovation program, argues that “(computer solutions) can assist attorneys at rapid rates to address any of the research issues and natural language sources, but it still takes the discipline and professionalism of a lawyer (to use)."

Our clients in the legal profession tend to share Bridgesmith’s view. Those firms that have looked at solutions like ROSS tell us they don’t see a broad application to their organizations in the near future. Even those practices with the most leading edge approach to technology explain that these systems, while theoretically interesting, lack necessary content and don’t provide practical solutions to the challenges their law firms confront.

The general consensus is that the place for computers in the practice of law is as a tool to maximize human efficiency — to make lawyers more productive, effective and accurate — with the ultimate goal of improving client service and relationships. As business owners, the partners we speak with are focused on how to better serve the needs of their clients through practical applications of technology.

It seems that technology-driven organizations that want to remove actual lawyers from the practice of law are forgetting what buyers want. Sure, buyers want less pricey legal services, but not at the expense of losing the human component. They still want counsel and strategy customized to their unique situation.

To suggest that artificial intelligence can replace a lawyer is to misunderstand the value of a lawyer and the needs of their clientele. Computers can only perform what their algorithms permit. Algorithms cannot fully model or replicate a lawyer’s understanding, analysis or experience. AI only succeeds in constrained environments and activities.

Above the Law, Are Robots Going to Take Our Legal Jobs?:

It is inevitable that technology will change the legal profession because it is changing all professions, but do we need to worry about it taking our jobs? If by “taking our jobs” you mean that one day there will be a bronze protocol droid in a three-piece suit behind your desk drafting an opposition to a motion for summary judgment, then probably not. But, if you mean that certain menial parts of your jobs are going to be outsourced to technology, then you are probably right. ...

[W]hat if all you do is menial labor and you are worried that you are going to get replaced by a robot? Don’t worry. Your legal career is not on borrowed time. You do what Blockbuster and Kodak didn’t do – you evolve. Move yourself outside of the realm of menial tasks and things that can be solved by subroutines. That’s option one.

Option two is to learn to be the one who controls the technology. Last week, I discussed how one of the best things a young lawyer can do is learn legal technology. Even more so if you feel that technology is going to replace your job. The technology does not buy itself and install itself. It does not run a cost/benefit analysis of using different systems. Relativity does not walk into a room and settle cases. It’s the administrators and document review teams that run the searches and use the shortcuts to find those documents. So, learn how to control and master the tools that create the shortcuts. As the person who controls the shortcuts, you’ll be in even higher demand than a professional Bates label applier.

Legal Education | Permalink


The more important question is "Will artificial intelligence, along with scores of nonlawyer actors chipping away at the boundaries of UPL, outsourcing of rote legal work overseas or to alternate legal service providers, clients doing more inhouse, the ever-growing percentage of Americans who cannot afford legal counsel, etc. permanently change the hiring market for law school graduates?" And the answer is yes. Ask a managing partner. Ask a general counsel. Ask a solo serving the working classes. Read an industry report. Read the BLS prognostications.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Jun 29, 2016 8:04:50 AM

It would be a mistake to confuse artificial intelligence with the real thing.

Posted by: Joseph W Mooney | Jun 29, 2016 4:31:30 AM