The Future of Automation in Litigation: Plotting Obsolescence to Survive

“The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.” – Bill Gates

I predict that the first components of a litigation file to be completely automated are the drafting of:

  • Common Pleadings (e.g. Statement of Claim for “slip and fall”);
  • Affidavit of Documents; and
  • Discovery Plans for common actions.

Why?

These documents are rule based, and computer programs love rules. I envision a computer program asking questions at the beginning of the file based on the type of action, e.g. when did the accident happen? What were the injuries? Based on a formula, the program would then produce a checklist/timeline for the action, notice letters, and pleading. As the file progressed, the program would then organize all client documents according to materiality, relevancy, and privilege into an Affidavit of Documents. Following examination for discovery, the program would create an undertakings list and assist in answering undertakings, and so on, leaving the role of the lawyer forever changed.

As automation in litigation becomes common, disputes between lawyers will change. Lawyers will argue about the legitimacy of the formula used in drafting legal documents. In response, there will be a whole new body of law on what makes a formula credible and ethical.

Should lawyers be afraid of automation?

No. “To survive every industry must plot its obsolescence of what now produces their livelihood.” – The Formula By Luke Dormehl

Comments

  1. I think everything lawyers do, when it comes to drafting documents, lends itself to automation. What is our system of precedents and education by case law, if not a Rube Goldberg machine designed to cause the legal profession, as a whole, to follow the same algorithms, according to the same rules (as may vary by jurisdiction). And tt sounds like it will always be time for barristers to shine.

    I want my robo-solicitor, and I want it yesterday!

  2. Stefan Kirchner @Law247

    Modern Technology is an Essential Part of Today’s Legal Profession

    Standard forms and text are a fairly common in many jurisdictions and often it really just comes down to filling in some details. In order to do that, one does not need to be asked by a human being (i.e. a lawyer in an office building), but that could be something that is done online. In order to protect a law firm which offers such services against liability claims, today a human lawyer will still have a look at the final document before it gets sent off to court. In the future such automation systems could be developed to a point that a responsible lawyer will only have to prove that he or she has used a sufficiently qualified software etc. in order to be protected against potential claims by the client or third parties. Many simple private law cases can be handled in such a way. For many other cases, however, there will still be a demand for lawyers. What will be different in the future is that many everyday (bread and butter) cases will no longer be available for traditional lawyers as the potential clients will already get affordable and reliable (robotic) service online. This is the equivalent to fast food. If you just want to eat something, now, you will be more likely to choose a fast food option rather than to make a reservation in the best restaurant in town. The latter will still be in business, it is just a different type of business. Lawyers should not be afraid of new technical developments. As a solo practitioner in a highly specialized and globalized legal field, technology actually makes my work possible. Most of what I can offer my clients would have been practically impossible even for major global law firms just a few years ago – not just because the law hardly existed but because the technology necessary to provide clients with the legal solutions they require simply did not exist when I began law school in the 1990s. Lawyers not only should not be afraid of new developments, they should embrace them and use them in the best interest of their clients and of the justice system as a whole.

  3. A Future Civil Litigation Practitioner

    I am finishing my third year of law school and have secured an articling position with a civil litigation firm next year. There is a lot of hype about legal automation – this is something that concerns me entering the legal profession. Will legal automation eventually usurp the function of lawyers? I’m inclined to say no. But, with that being said, if automation does enter the legal profession, how can we hone the benefits above to strengthen our own practice?

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