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Can a Robot Take a Lawyer’s Job?


By Jamal Mohammed Siddiqui, Canada

Published on April 02, 2021

The United States justice system is essentially a long list of things you can do and things you cannot. On the surface of it, one would assume that a computer program would be more than capable of running such a system, condemning the guilty and freeing the innocent. There are speculations that these advancements will hit lawyers in the future. In my opinion, however, it would be hard for robots to fully replace lawyers. Jamal Mohammed Siddiqui

The simple answer is that law is far from simple lines of binary code. Lawyers are tasked with the responsibility of representing their clients in civil and criminal litigation and tribunals, advising, or managing legal transactions, and preparation of legal documents. With increasing adoption of big data, artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, and Internet of Things, most positions or employees have been declared redundant in several industries ranging from manufacturing, administrative, hospitality to medicine (Remus, D. & Levy, F. 2017). It is estimated that by 2030 almost 30% of the jobs might not require human input since the computers are more efficient, faster, and cost-effective (Pagallo, U. 2013). In the legal profession, there has been growing use of AI to facilitate contract analysis, development of “Smart Apps” which use expert logic to deliver digital counsel to clients or enhance internal effectiveness, and document analysis being done using technology-assisted review (TAR) during investigations or litigations (Rostain, T. 2017). And progressive law firms invest considerably in smart knowledge management and generation of legal documents. Robotics and AI enable due diligence and automation of such processes as the drafting of commercial contracts which eventually saves significant compensable time when a similar task is done by entry-level or junior lawyer (Rostain, T. 2017). The ability of the robotics to perform bill management, create process maps, and electronic signature will make such technology to be indispensable. Therefore, the paralegals and law clerk’s positions are increasingly in jeopardy soon as the firm seeks to cut cost and gain competitive advantage.

 Despite the prospects, the legal profession is considered one of the few industries that can be negatively affected by robotics. Lawyers require intricate argument-building, comprehensive study of case laws to determine precedence, and cautious research to convince the jury and the judge and challenge the prosecutors in real-time (Singer, P. 2009). In some scenario, split-second decisions must be made to win cases which can be difficult while using programmed robots. The robotics being introduced in the market is mostly used to complement the lawyers especially strengthening their arguments and make them prolific as opposed to accelerating redundancy (Remus, D. & Levy, F. 2017). The robots will free and allow lawyers to focus on strategic responsibilities which demand advanced problem-solving skills and emotional intelligence.

Robots can perform dismally especially interpreting the several gray areas during litigations and research since there is no decisive response (Pagallo, U. 2013). Therefore, human input is inevitable in such situations. The lawyer versus robot dilemma can be equated to the pilots versus autopilot technology challenge in the 1940s (Asaro, P. 2007). Pilots expressed their reservations against the innovation since they were convinced that they will lose their jobs (Asaro, P., 2007). But eighty years later evident planes cannot fly unmanned. The robot will help to automate repetitive tasks, but human lawyers will handle anything that demands responsibility and forward-thinking decision-making (Pagallo, U. 2013). The most important elements of the legal profession, such as courtroom arguments and actual counseling will be handled by humans while the robot lawyers manage the drudge work, for example, paperwork, research, and statistical analysis.

The adoption of technology and innovations such as robotics, AI, and machine learning have helped to create new divisions of law that require new legal professionals ranging from cyber-lawyers to family law specialists (Asaro, P. 2007). Clients have not embraced robot lawyers due to trust issues and their demand for the best possible and creative representation. And legal and regulatory obligations demand advanced skill, care, knowledge, and proficiency before and during active practice (Remus, D. & Levy, F. 2017). Such divisions of law criminal, conveyance, civil, environmental, commercial, constitutional, military, and economic crime matters can best be handled by lawyers since they require human judgment. In most jurisdictions, technological evidence used to simplify legal proceedings, for example, video, is rarely admissible in criminal court due to such concerns as pre-trial storage of data, privacy issues, origin, and authenticity. Litigants will demand that technologies such as robots are not allowed during court proceedings.

Think of it like this; at one point in history, lawyers conducted their work by hand. Then, computers came along and any lawyer not using them would be immediately left behind. Artificial intelligence can be seen as the next step along that path. Law firms are already using AI to conduct research, perform due diligence, and bill hours. As such, some experts have predicted that legal researchers and paralegals may see their jobs taken over by the robot workforce before long. However, at this stage in the development of AI, it is certainly more of a tool for lawyers to utilize rather than competition for their jobs.


References

Asaro, P.M., 2007. Robots and responsibility from a legal perspective. Proceedings of the IEEE, 2(7), pp.20-24.

Pagallo, U., 2013. The laws of robots: crimes, contracts, and torts (Vol. 10). Berlin: Springer Science & Business Media.

Remus, D. & Levy, F., 2017. Can robots be lawyers: computers, lawyers, and the practice of law. Geo. J. Legal Ethics, 30(2), pp.501.

Rostain, T., 2017. Robots versus lawyers: a user-centered approach. Geo. J. Legal Ethics, 1(30), pp.559-561.

Singer, P.W., 2009. Military robots and the laws of war. The New Atlantis, 3(23), pp.25-45.