Could robots replace lawyers as the most efficient and unbiased keepers of the law? Science fiction has posed this question for decades, but now the question is entering the real world. In fact, one British study predicts that robots will replace lawyers by 2030!
Why would you want a robot lawyer?
The perceived benefits of a robotic lawyers largely stem from the benefits that we project onto AI and robots in cinema: they can be pragmatic, incorruptible, and more efficient than any human lawyer could possibly dream of being. That warm human touch and compassion is missing, of course, but the comparative flawlessness that computers employ is certainly attractive in a legal case.
And in fact, there are many potential benefits of a robo-lawyer:
- Document review can be automated through predictive coding. Human lawyers can work with programmers to make robo-lawyers sufficiently accurate at predicting whether or not a legal case is relevant for a law firm.
- Document and case management has been automated for years and already allows lawyers to fill out automated templates, perform billing tasks, and many other clerical tasks. The clerical realm might be where machines shine the brightest.
- Computers can also be trained to perform some levels of legal research. While the reasoning of a computer is limited in some respects, simple queries (like you might request of Siri or Cortana on your phone) can be easily and quickly answered.
So, when can I expect to be represented by a robo-lawyer?
If you’re expecting a robotic lawyer in the actual courtroom, then you’ll have to be patient. However, robo-lawyers that simply assist real humans are already among us!
One example is ROSS. According to The Washington Post, one of the country’s largest law firms, BakerHostetler, has “hired” the first “robot lawyer” to assist with bankruptcy cases. ROSS has been called “the world’s first artificially intelligent attorney.” But don’t think of ROSS as a physical robot with a metal body: it is a complex program accessible through a computer and billed as a subscription service. Still, it’s a start!
What’s more, a 19-year-old has also created a free robot lawyer that has already appealed $3 million in parking tickets. One simply has to sign up and have a conversation with the robot to see if there are any ways that a parking ticket can be appealed. It works off of conversations and pays attention to specific keywords, the order of words, pronouns, and more, which makes it incredibly user-friendly.
So what is the likely future of robot lawyers? Ned Gannon, Co-Founder and CEO of eBrevia put it best in a Bloomberg law article: “In twenty years, a machine will help analyze data, but you will still be hiring a lawyer.”