Drum Machines and the Legal Profession

An interesting post by lawyer and cognitive scientist Peter Macmillan, was captured in part by comments in the LinkedIn Legal Innovation and Technology group, caught my attention last week. In his post, “Robot Lawyers are Not the Future,” Macmillan begins by noting that “industry outsiders are pushing technologies that many believe will transform the legal profession from a technological backwater to a shining example of cognitive computing.”

And, although he knows that advances in technology will not stop happening, he contends that, “Robot Lawyers are not the future, at least not in the sense that they’ll rule the world of legal services.” Instead he sees the future of the legal profession as “rather more human.”

To illustrate his point, he draws a nice parallel that compares the once “depressingly bleak” future forecasted for human drummers as the drum machine was embraced by many musicians in the 1980’s. While drum machine technology came and went, it was a staple in some musical genres and remains an important enhancement in the music making process. However,

“… the pros who have the ability to quickly understand what an artist wants, can infuse a unique feel into their songs, and are able to raise the creative atmosphere in the studio [still get well-paid work] … expert drummers, like expert lawyers, draw on extensive technical know-how, have a deep understanding of client needs, are known for their excellent judgment, and possess intuitive abilities beyond those of their merely competent – and less in-demand – colleagues. It’s also relevant to note that today there is little interest in developing new generations of drum machines. No major manufacturer considers this to be a high-profit market segment anymore. The drum machine concept has become little more than a commoditised add-on to other products.”

Macmillan suggests that what law firms should really be focussing on is “how to develop – and keep – those legal experts who will be doing what machines cannot.”

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