Will Your Future Lawyer Be A Robot?
Robots are a threat to many industries and the legal profession is no exception.
“The age of intelligent machines will see huge numbers of individuals unable to work, unable to earn, unable to pay taxes. Those workers will need to be retrained-or risk being left out in the cold. We could face labor displacement of a magnitude we haven't seen since the 1930s.”- Andrew Ng
It may seem far-fetched and something straight out of a science fiction movie but one day you will seek legal advice from a robo-lawyer. Instead of sitting face to face with a human explaining a legal problem, you may be typing out that problem out on a machine and waiting for the answer to be computer-generated.
The future of the legal profession is not looking bright and as a lawyer, I am both concerned and excited. However, I don’t believe I am about to give my job to a robot.
AI has already changed the legal profession and the way people access justice. Many are sceptical. Some may say:
“Don’t you need a personal connection with your lawyer?”
I don’t think so, especially given the advantages of robo-lawyers including their costs and speed. Although there are some complex legal matters that require a human touch for the vast majority of legal matters like writing a will or drafting standard contracts, no human touch is required.
Robo-lawyers are cheaper
Many people avoid going to lawyers, not because they don’t need one but because they cost a small fortune. Well, the good ones do. And after seeing a lawyer and paying their legal fees you may not have much to take home if you were seeking money.
The human legal profession caters to the elite. The ones who can afford to pay hideous fees. Vast portions of the population, particularly those who are most vulnerable are left out in the cold. In South Africa, legal aid is freely available to all criminally accused but other legal services for civil or family matters are difficult to access.
It is a problem. A problem that robo-lawyers can address. Robo-lawyers can succeed where human lawyers have failed. They can offer legal services to indigent and vulnerable communities that are in desperate need.
DoNotPay, bills itself as one of the world's first robo-lawyers. DoNotPay is a service that offers its clients the ability to run their own legal matters. Their terms of service state that they are not a law firm but:
“a platform for legal information and self-help.”
DoNotPay was founded by Joshua Browder, age 22. He launched the platform while at University, but not studying to be a lawyer. Its first service offered its users the means to fight parking tickets and has saved its users millions of dollars. Their services have since expanded to include suing in the Small Claims Court and fighting bureaucracy.
This is just the beginning. Browder said of the site when he started it:
I am scared of one day being out of a job but also thrilled at the prospect that more people will be able to access legal advice. Access to justice is a basic human right. In South Africa, a product like DoNotPay is sorely needed.
DoNotPay is revolutionary and offers its users something that before has been difficult to find; cheap or free legal advice that actually works. Although in its early stages and offering limited services, I have no doubt it will expand to offer a multitude of legal services.
There other robo-lawyers; LegalZoom offers its clients the services of drafting a will, registering a trademark and incorporating a company. NDA Lyn will read your non-disclosure agreement and provide advice on whether you should sign it or not.
Robo-lawyers are either free or cost a fraction of the cost of a human lawyer. You may not have the comforting hand of your lawyer guiding you through a legal matter but you will have a lawyer.
When will robo-lawyers take over?
The complete take over of the legal profession is not around the corner. Although many lawyers will have to change the way they practice law if they are to keep up with times. Robo-lawyers like DoNotPay consulted human lawyers before launching its products and will continue to do.
A robo-lawyer can provide legal advice but it cannot run your matter in court or litigate, yet. And a robo-lawyer cannot look beyond factors that are not easily quantifiable such as emotional or sensitive information.
Progress in the field of legal AI is both slow and unpredictable. It has already taken years and will take many more before all human lawyer functions are automated.
The pace of technology improvement is notoriously unpredictable. For years, labor economists said routine work like a factory job could be reduced to a set of rules that could be computerized. They assumed that professionals, like lawyers, were safe because their work was wrapped in language- New York Times
The legal profession is changing and the practice of law. There may be many challenges the profession will face in the next couple of years but no one can predict with certainty what the future legal profession will look like.
One thing is certain: robo-lawyers are on the rise.