Thursday, April 2, 2009

From time to time, there is evidence of some angst among lawyers that their jobs will disappear - and not necessarily due to the economy (particularly in the US). Paralegals/law clerks (depending on which side of the border you are) were once considered something of a threat to lawyers. Then it was outsourcing. And now it's technology.

These last two are concurrent concerns right now and have been exacerbated, thanks to eDiscovery, by the exponential growth in "potentially relevant" information that has to be reviewed by someone (or something) before deciding if it really must go to opposing counsel. Not to mention figuring out if it is privileged or not.

Lawyers may be interested in knowing that it's not just their own profession feeling the pinch of technology taking over the world. Some scientists may find this article from the trusty BBC a little worrisome: a robot which can not only perform certain experiments, but also plan further experiments to verify its hypothesis.

Imagine how that might look in the legal world!! Not only would WhizBang EDD Soup to Nuts edition manage, identify, preserve, collect, process, review, analyze, produce and present your data, it even figures out if your theory of the case has to be modified, and drafts the appropriate motion/modified Statement of Defence or Answer to Complaint for you!!

Lawyers would be reduced to little more than rubber-stampers (perhaps a new use for Bates Stampers?) of relentlessly logical legal arguments created by their AI equivalents. Best of all, these Litigation AIs (LAIs) wouldn't require absurdly inflated salaries right off the bat, and could work around the clock, pushing up their billables while reducing overhead dramatically. Clients around the world would breathe a sigh of relief knowing that their litigation matters were being handled in a low-cost, logical, perfectly fair and balanced manner.

As Ralph Losey would have it - the practice of law is an art, not a science, and I doubt we're really going to see robots take over lawyers' jobs any time soon.

But it's fun to think about :-)

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