A new report is predicting that robots and artificial intelligence will dominate most legal practices within 15 years, leading to the "structural collapse" of law firms.
Expert systems fuelled by sophisticated algorithms, natural language processing capabilities, and unhindered access to stores of data are poised to uproot many well established industries and institutions. And as a new report compiled by Jomati Consultants points out, lawyers — like many other white collar workers — are in danger of being supplanted. Legal Futures reports:
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…
"Clients would instead greatly value the human input of the firm's top partners, especially those that could empathise with the client's needs and show real understanding and human insight into their problems."
This will be a disaster for associate lawyers owing to the dramatic reduction in positions available.
As for the impact on law firms, and in the words of the Jomati report: "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 alternative business structures [ABI], but the impact of AI will make such developments pale in comparison."
The report is titled "Civilisation 2030: The near future for law firms."
More at Legal Futures.