Technology and Law’s Future: A Twitterchat

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.

Michael Rappaport provides a good summary of “The End of Lawyers”, if you aren’t prepared to read the whole book for tomorrow.

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.

Satirical legal startup Robot, Robot & Hwang lists two robots as partners, and has published a working paper on the law of automatic law.

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.

If you’ve never participated in a Twitter Chat before, it’s a mix of a networking event, and a retro ‘chat room’. Questions are asked by a moderator, and everyone is free to respond and engage with ideas. It’s a great way to get new perspective on issues, and connect with new and interesting people. Read more about how twitter chats work.

The next #cbafutureschat is Tuesday at 7pm ET.

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