In Debunking 3 Legal Technology Myths the writer states “technology is usually not about becoming a better lawyer – that’s what CLEs and mentors are for. Technology is about running a more effective law business using shortcuts.” While using technology can help with efficiency, there are certainly legal tasks that computers do well such as document review and cite-checking. Likewise, there are legal tasks attorneys are uniquely equipped to do well: legal research, thinking and addressing complex issues, advising clients, and yes document review (albeit more slowly and costly than computers).
However, the development of IBM’s Watson and the fact that in 2011 it won against two of Jeopardy’s greatest champions has catapulted the idea of artificial intelligence (i.e. technology) as potentially replacing the work of legal professionals into the spotlight. And the graph below from a recent Altman Weil survey is telling with respect to how legal professionals feel about this possibility.
Certainly there are timekeeper tasks that a law-focused Watson-like technology could do. But should we consider the idea from AI Should Stand for Attorney Intelligence that “we are losing sight of the proposition that people are slow and computers fast, but people are smart and computers are dumb”? Or see the proof In A Huge Breakthrough, Google’s AI Beats a Top Player at the Game of Go which lends further credence to the idea that computers are getting closer to mimicking human intelligence and thus are not quite as “dumb” as they once were?
No matter where you stand on the issue of artificial intelligence, if you think you should care about technology because it might replace you, rethink that thought, and consider instead the conclusion in Why Should You Care About Legal Technology that ignoring it will be perilous.
Computers (AI) can answer questions, but for now at least, they cannot ask questions or provide insight! As humans we possess plausible reasoning and critical thinking skills, thus we are able to answer both simple and complex questions. As humans, lawyers are equipped to provide the legal advice necessary to help clients make good decisions.
Technology is great, but the real key is in being smart and acquiring the knowledge of how to use the technology at your disposal to enhance the skills you already possess. Moreover, when the time comes, as it most surely will, we need to embrace and harness new and future technologies to continue improving the business of law.