Paul L. Caron

Friday, September 25, 2020

The Vitruvian Lawyer: How To Thrive In An Era Of AI And Quantum Technologies

Hilary G. Escajeda (Denver), The Vitruvian Lawyer: How to Thrive in an Era of AI and Quantum Technologies, 29 Kan. J.L. & Pub. Pol'y 421 (2020):

We live in an exciting and tumultuous time as artificial intelligence (AI), and quantum technologies unleash more transformations than the agrarian, industrial, and computer revolutions combined. This new age, popularly called “The Fourth Industrial Revolution,” describes the convergence of increasingly powerful and capable digital and robotic technologies.

As human-machine teaming becomes the norm, new and mid-career lawyers should actively cultivate the uniquely human personal and professional skills that machines cannot supplant. A short list of these skills includes curiosity, cognitive range (depth and breadth), creativity, and emotional intelligence. In their work as knowledge entrepreneurs and inventive problem solvers, modern lawyers must also continuously augment and leverage their education, training, and insights to spot, imagine, generate, and deliver client value.

Because designing and crafting one’s career in a time of flux presents a myriad of challenges, a role model to emulate can provide both guidance and inspiration. Five hundred years after his death, Leonardo da Vinci remains the quintessential Renaissance Man, and a study of his career yields many valuable lessons for twenty-first-century lawyers.

Vitruvian Lawyers will thrive in an era of AI and quantum technologies because they will vigorously stretch their human curiosity, cognitive range, and creativity to achieve apex imaginator status. This Article explores how to become one.

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There appears to be at least one major problem with expecting most lawyers to adopt to and embrace an age of ever accelerating technological change; whether that’s artificial intelligence and quantum technologies on the one hand, or biological breakthroughs and big data on the other.

Many lawyers, because they suffer from innumeracy, and lack any meaningful background in STEM fields, too often cannot really understand what is going on, recognize when expertise from other disciplines is necessary, and understand what an expert is trying to explain to them, much less cross examine one or explain a basic scientific concept to a judge or jury.

So how can they possibly “be inventive problem solvers” if there’s so little basis upon which to base any invention?

As C.P. Snow pointed out even many years ago, most of those who majored in the Humanities, as most law students did, can’t even define “mass” or “acceleration,” much less explain the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

Thus, he sadly concluded: “the great edifice of modern physics goes up, and the majority of the cleverest people in the western world have about as much insight into it as their neolithic ancestors would have had.”

Yes, lawyers - because so much of our society is affected by litigation, as well as laws and regulations written by them - should be modern Renaissance men and women (a/k/a “Vitruvian Lawyers”), but they can’t be if they lack at least some grounding in modern science and the scientific method.


Posted by: LawProf John Banzhaf | Sep 26, 2020 4:47:06 AM

Free markets, you gotta love it. Adapt or die. Fantastic article.

@John Unfortunately, it appears law schools are not teaching any of these skills. Maybe law schools need to adapt or die?

Posted by: Dale Spradling | Sep 27, 2020 5:45:01 AM

Two thoughts. I went to high school and college (subject to an interruption overseas in the 1st Air Cav) so long ago, I was taught math and science both in high school and in required college courses. I found them useful in my career.

I have found a fair number of tax (CPA/lawyers) people who weren’t comfortable with numbers. It is just math – add, subtract, multiply and divide. I can usually spot mistakes by feel. And the point is to pay less tax legally. How hard a concept is that!

If you don’t want your individual or corporate clients to pay less tax, find other work. Who are tax law professors who think certain clients should pay more representing? How can they teach students?

Posted by: aircav65 | Sep 29, 2020 11:10:52 AM