A.I. is going to make our jobs easier – there, I’ve said it.
I know a few law colleagues who are likely to cringe at the thought of reading this, and rightly so. Articles being shared like wildfire on social media are loaded with comments with keywords like “in trouble” and “take over”. This, coupled with recent World Economic Forum stats didn’t help, as it was indicated in “The Future of Jobs” [link], that 7.1 million jobs could be impacted, and 2 million gained, due to technological developments. The technological present we find ourselves in, referred to by the WEF as the “cusp of a Fourth Industrial Revolution”, is just that: the cusp of something – providing lots of room to worry and hypothesize about the future.
Stephen Hawking gave words of warning a few months ago on how the increase of A.I. and automation has “decimated jobs in traditional manufacturing” and that this trend is likely to extend “deep into the middle classes”. Where does this leave lawyers, Stephen?
From my communications with individuals working on software meant to automate legal work, the evolution of A.I. within this sphere has been a slow process; it would be ridiculous to think current lawyers will be replaced by robots. What is currently being replaced, are tasks that lawyers or their assistants undertake that are both time-consuming and would be better off delegated.
For example, an A.I. technique known as “natural language processing” can assist in scanning and predicting whether particular information or documents are relevant to a case. More recently, the Dutch government developed Modria, an automated tool to aid in the divorce process with minimal involvement from lawyers. Based on knowledge of lawyers and divorce experts, the platform is capable of surveying couples on their separation preferences such as distribution of property, child custody, and other commonly deliberated issues. Utilizing this information, Modria has been able to aid in directing discussion and negotiation for the most optimal outcome for both parties. Some family lawyers may be troubled by this innovation, but in thinking client-first this allows them to focus on bettering more critical and irreplaceable skills.
With A.I., a task that generally would require hours of toiling over could be done in a fraction of the time, allowing lawyers to focus on critical tasks such as advising and communicating with clients, negotiating, and writing. Although tasks requiring higher-level thought have not been delegated by way of A.I. (yet), and although it’s possible things will go there, we know it will not be any time soon. Until then, perhaps we could better ourselves in the field of law, while remaining open to the potential change A.I. might bring, and keeping an open mind when greater change arrives.