Some say the ‘The robots are coming’. I insist, “The robots are here” It’s fast becoming the mantra of our age. Its closer than we all think. Honestly, it has gotten me scared that we as lawyers and those in the legal industry as a whole haven’t done enough to embrace this change.
The Webster Dictionary, defines ‘automation’ as a technique for making a process or system operate automatically, without the need for a human being to be there to control or operate it. Automation is not confined to a specific area of technology, rather it relates to a vast area.
In the legal profession – where for ‘thousands of years,’ trust, diligence and ‘good judgement’ have been watchwords – the idea of Artificial Intelligence ‘replacing’ lawyers continues to be controversial. From law school and all through our careers we are taught that the Trusted Advisor is what all good lawyers aspire to become.
The most enduring relationships in the legal profession are the ones where the client can confide in the lawyer. And often the most valued advice we give clients isn’t just based on how we respond when they ask, ‘Should I do this?’; but on how we respond when they ask, ‘Would you do this?’
Trust is hard won over time, across relationships and often across borders. But the world is speeding up; globalization, technological advances, and the Internet of Things all mean there is huge pressure to be quicker, smarter and more productive. So if machines can do the learning, will lawyers become extinct?
The law touches every corner of the business world. Virtually everything that companies do—sales, purchases, partnerships, mergers, reorganizations—they do via legally enforceable contracts. Innovation would grind to a halt without a well-developed body of intellectual property law. Day to day, whether we recognize it or not, each of us operates against the backdrop of our legal regime and the implicit possibility of litigation.
Change is happening and I must say it is happening very very fast and being simply a good lawyer is no longer enough. Let’s be clear, this is not new. The financial services industry is going through similar challenges, but there will need to be an evolution in law and regulation to allow the true potential of technology in the legal sector come out.
Take for instance, document review; 30 years ago a client would pay millions to have thousands of documents manually reviewed. Thanks to technology, much of that work is now done by machines. Many other legal processes can be automated. AI and the tools that ‘bring it to life’ is more of an opportunity than a threat: a chance to focus on the valuable work for clients; a chance to have more information to empower lawyers to make better decisions more quickly; a chance to offer young lawyers more than spending their first two years in a data room.
In the aviation world, drones are another good example of how we are adapting as the world changes. Drones are revolutionizing industries, while simultaneously pushing aviation law’s boundaries because they don’t fit the standard aviation framework, and many companies entering this space for the first time need industry-specific advice to navigate this rapidly evolving legal landscape and use drones to their fullest capabilities.
In the soccer world, technology has been introduced. We see advancements in goal line technology and the VAR system. I believe more is still coming.
Another clear example is Driverless cars. When they knock someone over, who’s to blame? Who’s going to pay? Where are the liabilities? That’s a fascinating area for a lawyer.
Our clients expect better from us and that we as lawyers harness AI to make sure we can do more with less. Let’s not just talk the talk – we must be ready to walk the talk.
Remember, conviction not acted upon will soon die. Simply put, innovation isn’t about the business of law, it’s about the business of business. So how do we keep up? By having better conversations and by having a richer understanding of the world. To listen and learn so we are better equipped.
With all the glorified work that has been done manually in older times, it does not mean that it has to continue the same way or that change and constant improvement is not needed. It is upon us to bring this change and let our hard work blossom towards a brighter future. There should be no need to worry about maternity leave, health insurance and sleep hours if automation and technology can assist the new future of work and open the doors to an easier work and home life! It is wrong to say that law professionals would become extinct. If anything, technology is trying to give them more time to be more productive and critically analyze their cases before appearing in court. A human being will always be needed for negotiations and in dealing with clients and understanding their needs – things which cannot be done through automation alone. We are still living in a world meant for human beings and not robots or machines. It is not a science fiction movie where machines take over humans with vengeance and force them into submission, or worse, extinction. Rest assured, lawyers are in no danger from automation and are definitely here to stay for the foreseeable future.
Investment in technology must be in sync with investment in talent. Because, let’s be frank, the market will kill those who don’t adapt. They are the ones who should be scared of the machines. For them, the robots are coming. The really wise lawyers know that the robots are here.
Let me borrow from the words of Nelson Mandela. It says “Sometimes, it falls upon a generation to be great; you can be that great generation, let your greatness blossom.”
Indeed, it’s up to us.