Richard Susskind’s popular book “The End of Lawyers” highlights a future where disruptive technological change and increased commoditization of legal services fundamentally changes the practice of law. Susskind and others have written on the power of automation, of computers not just changing the way we practice law, but possibly bypassing lawyers completely.
As algorithms take over an increasing amount of the investment market, and surgeons rely more on the precision of robots, what is to stop computers from taking over the practice of law?
There are examples of this sort of automation already occurring in Canada, with companies like Diligence Engine using algorithms to augment the process of document review, or the automated form offered by the company I founded, MyLegalBriefcase.
The traditional way of delivering legal service, crafting the solution from scratch starting with a blank sheet of paper, is a luxury that no one will be able to afford,” Susskind argues. “A lot of legal work is routine and repetitive; we can do it in different ways, it can be outsourced, offshored, done by computers, standardized.
The first time lawyer and blogger Tony Brown saw a computer practice law was in the 1980s. He thinks the profession isn’t putting enough effort into harnessing automated technologies to improve their business delivery.
I answered a series of questions about my personal needs related to an estate plan, giving what was essentially ‘the facts of my legal situation.’ Well in to the questioning a yellow screen popped up and ‘gave me advice.’ I do not remember the specific advice, but the gist was that based on the my situation, I should consider changing my answer to the last question about what I thought I would want, since that did not fit with my situation. I recall distinctly sitting back and thinking – Wow. I just witnessed something unique. A computer giving me real legal advice.
Addressing the question of whether or not an artificial intelligence could serve in the legal role of a trustee over twenty years ago, Lawrence Solum distilled this multifaceted inquiry into two key questions: one of practical competence (“[W]ill the AI be able to get the job done[?]”) and one of legal capacity (“[W]ill the law allow AIs to serve[?]”).
Here is some more reading material submitted by participants on our twitter stream.
- LawPivot, a Google-backed free crowdsourcing resource for answers to legal questions in the US is set to launch in the UK.
- Nicole Black says lawyers unwilling to innovate and embrace technology will suffer in the future legal market.
- Cassels, Brock & Blackwell report a position experience with automated document creation in helping improve client services.
- Richard Susskind predicts a new sort of job description: Legal Knowledge Engineer
- One report finds that predictive coding may be more efficient than lawyers at document review.
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