Law Firms To Undergo 'Structural Collapse' Due Artificially Intelligent Systems

A new report Civilisation 2030: The near future for law firms, by Jomati Consultants, predicts that robots and artificial intelligence (AI) will dominate legal practice within 15 years.

The report’s focus on the future of work contained the most disturbing findings for lawyers. Its main proposition is that AI is already close in 2014. “It is no longer unrealistic to consider that workplace robots and their AI processing systems could reach the point of general production by 2030… after long incubation and experimentation, technology can suddenly race ahead at astonishing speed.”

By this time, ‘bots’ could be doing “low-level knowledge economy work” and soon much more. “Eventually each bot would be able to do the work of a dozen low-level associates. They would not get tired. They would not seek advancement. They would not ask for pay rises. Process legal work would rapidly descend in cost.”

The human part of lawyering would shrink. “To sustain margins a law firm would have to show added value elsewhere, such as in high-level advisory work, effectively using the AI as a production tool that enabled them to retain the loyalty and major work of clients…

For associate lawyers, the rise of AI will be a disaster: “The number of associates that firms need to hire will be greatly reduced, at least if the intention is to use junior lawyers for billable work rather than primarily to educate and train them ready to become business winners.

On the impact of AI on law firms, Jomati concluded: “The economic model of law firms is heading for a structural revolution, some might say a structural collapse. We may have heard a lot about ‘New Law’ and [ABS], but the impact of AI will make such developments pale in comparison.”

Science fiction offers lots of great examples of the use of robots and artificially intelligent computers in law. See Law Expert System (LEX) by Greg Egan from The Moat (1991) and Max Detention (Virtual Counsel) from Greg Bear's 2007 novel Quantico. Don't forget the lawyer program from David Brin's 1990 novel Earth.

Further back in time, fans of Frederik Pohl may recall the law clerk robot from his 1954 story The Midas Plague, and the robot judge from Harry Harrison's 1959 short story Robot Justice.

Via LegalFutures.

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