Everywhere you look, robots are doing something to further their inevitable takeover of the human race. And now they’ve chosen a clever route to further their dominance, by targeting the most loathed, marginalized members of the human race: Lawyers.
Anybody who’s dealt with the legal system is probably imagining Terminators herding entire firms into a meat grinder. But actually, according to Legal Futures in a report found by io9, the robots will erase the legal profession by making it impossible for said lawyers to get a job:
“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 raises. Process legal work would rapidly descend in cost. 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.”
It’s worth noting here that what they’re talking about is the grinding drudge work of the legal profession: Reviewing documents, researching previous cases and precedents, filing various related actions, and all the other day-to-day stuff lawyers hate and which most of them spend years doing. It’s probably the most soul-grinding office job you can find, and automating it would arguably be a mercy.
On the other hand, it would both drastically reduce the number of associate lawyer positions, and would also be absurdly cheap. So essentially, you’d have a lot of lawyers on a level playing field duking it out to keep the lights on, and what amounts to a rapid race to the bottom.
Just like most of the other claims that robots are coming to take our jobs, though, there are a few caveats. Lawyers are more vulnerable than most to robots, because really a lot of legal research is sifting through text, which robots are pretty good at. Yet we’ve seen what happens when you give a robot the ability to take unilateral legal action in the past, and it went about as well as you’d expect. If it makes just one mistake, a robot lawyer could wind up requiring you to hire a real one.
That said, the one lawyer joke that is true is that law firms can be shockingly greedy, so expect these systems to become more commonplace. Whether they turn on their masters, though, we will have to wait and see.