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Opinion

Robots will not replace lawyers

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Be under no illusion lawyers will not be replaced by robots. There has been an extraordinary amount of hype about legal technology over recent months, but the reality is it is there to assist rather than replace lawyers.

When thinking of legal technology you should think of it more as a helpful assistant making your life easier while you navigate your matters. It is something to be embraced as it is likely to reduce time spent on administrative or mundane tasks in favour of arguably more interesting analytical or advisory work. While legal technology assists in a sizeable proportion of a lawyer’s work there are always going to be areas which may never be affected by it.

For litigation matters, analysis of matters is an aspect that artificial intelligence may have difficulty in ever being able to carry out 100 percent. The start-up CaseCrunch recently carried out a lawyer vs AI competition on whether the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) would accept a series of PPI claims on the facts. AI won the competition. However, this was based on a single yes/no question. The majority of matters are much more complex than advising a client whether their PPI claim will succeed at the FOS or not.

Laws change or get updated and when that happens the accuracy of a given prediction is going to get called into question. Case prediction is likely to be beneficial for volume claims but not so beneficial for anything that is niche, where few cases have reached the upper courts.

Case prediction requires a result to have occurred in the first place. AI is good at determining probabilities, but analysing a case and then using the data to generate a statement of case is a whole different ball game. I would be surprised if artificial intelligence could ever determine whether someone had breached the duty of skill and care based on the facts, or many of the common law tests for that matter. So lawyers will still need to be involved in litigation matters.

For transactional matters, many firms use automation to make the process of drafting more efficient. However despite that, it still requires a lawyer’s input throughout the whole process. Firstly, a lawyer with experience of a particular area of law will have to draft the precedent used for automation. That precedent still requires updating as laws change or as a result of court cases. Automation is also something which is predominantly used to create first drafts quickly. The likelihood is that the first draft won’t be 100% complete so (a) a junior lawyer will need to finish it and (b) a more senior lawyer will need to review and approve it.

Legal technology also won’t be able to predict new laws coming into force or new common law rules, or even determine when laws are no longer fit for purpose. Lawyers will still need to be there to advise clients on the latest legal developments and how it may affect them. For example, legal technology will not be able to predict who will be affected by a law change, ascertain how it affects their unique circumstances and advise them accordingly. On top of that, it is also going to be difficult for there to be a legal technology substitute for compassion and commercial awareness.

So despite the hype legal technology will not replace lawyers. However they will need to embrace it to provide the best possible service to their clients.

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