Rise of the Robot Lawyers?
26 Pages Posted: 27 Nov 2018 Last revised: 23 Apr 2019
Date Written: November 17, 2018
The advent of artificial intelligence has provoked considerable speculation about the future of the American workforce, including highly educated professionals such as lawyers and doctors. Although most commentators are alarmed by the prospect of intelligent machines displacing millions of workers, not so with respect to the legal sector. Media accounts and some legal scholars envision a future where intelligent machines perform the bulk of legal work, and legal services are less expensive and more accessible. This future is purportedly near at hand as lawyers struggle to compete with technologically-savvy alternative legal service providers.
This Article challenges the notion that lawyers will be displaced by artificial intelligence on both empirical and normative grounds. Most legal tasks are inherently abstract and cannot be performed by even advanced artificial intelligence relying on deep-learning techniques. In addition, lawyer employment and wages have grown steadily over the last twenty years, evincing that the legal profession has benefited from new technologies, as it has throughout its history. Lastly, even if large-scale automation of legal work is possible, core societal values counsel against it. These values are not merely aspirational but are reflected in the multi-faceted role of lawyers and in the way that the legal system is structured.
Keywords: automation, legal profession, recession, artificial intelligence, biglaw, watson
JEL Classification: J01, J44
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation