Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The End of Lawyers, Period.

The End of Lawyers, Period.
The ABA Journal Online
Legal Rebels 
By D. Casey Flaherty
March 3, 2016

The law does not exist for the purpose of keeping lawyers employed. I cribbed that line—and many others—from Richard Susskind back in the days when there was still a question mark punctuating The End of Lawyers?

I think it is fair to say that Susskind has gotten past the interrogative. In his latest book, The Future of the Professions, he and his son, Daniel, write "we foresee that, in the end, the traditional professions will be dismantled, leaving most (but not all) professionals to be replaced by less expert people and high-performing systems."

If that is not clear enough, consider:

"Our expectation is that, over time—by which we mean decades rather than overnight—there will be technological unemployment in the professions. In other words, there will not be sufficient growth in the types of professional task in which people, not machines, have the advantage to keep most professionals in full employment."

Similar pronouncements in other sectors has given rise to a general sense of automation anxiety, where worries of a jobless future lead to headlines like "A World Without Work" that in turn engender further headlines like "Americans Are More Afraid of Robots Than Death." There is plenty of counterprogramming that relies on the Luddite Fallacy and the automation paradox to assure us that on net, technology increases the demand for human labor and to explain that the automation of tasks rather than jobs will change, not eliminate, work.

Automation anxiety is fairly acute in legal (or, maybe, it just seems that way because that is where I spend my time). The 2015 Altman Weil Law Firms in Transition survey (PDF) asked managing partners if a law-focused Watson would replace timekeepers—just as technology has displaced legal secretaries, seemingly permanently. Only 20 percent responded that computers will never replace human practitioners. That was down from 46 percent when the same question was posed to the same group in 2011, the year Watson first won Jeopardy! As always, there is counterprogramming like the recent New York Times’ Bits blog post "The End of Lawyers? Not So Fast." that, among other sources, cites to a draft study Can Robots Be Lawyers? which, while not yet for quotation, seems destined to conclude that the popular accounts of the potential displacement of lawyers by automation are a bit overblown. Read more

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