‘People will always need lawyers’, they said

But what happens when AI disrupts the law as we know it? Is it still worth pursuing a career in law, all things considered?

‘The Robots are Coming’, a study about the apparently inevitable event of technology and AI overtaking the place of lawyers in society reads, and this seems to be a commonly held belief worldwide. Even universities, who would surely be encouraging more people to study law with them, have carried out extensive studies into the idea that the law is becoming, bit by bit, ‘pushed aside’ by the age of AI.

So, what then happens to the hordes of budding young lawyers (like myself), trying to gain employment in the legal sector? Should we all just give up hope and head back to the drawing board of deciding what it is we really want to do (frankly quite a miserable prospect after one year of law school)? The simple answer to this question is in fact, no.

Call me old-fashioned, but it seems clear to me that there are some jobs (despite the swathes of material arguing otherwise), that computers simply can’t do. I, for one, back the opinion of Steve Lohr, a New York Times journalist, when he suggests that AI will not replace lawyers (at least for the time being). How, for example, can a computer be expected to apply a subjective judgement to a particular case, as is often needed? And how could a computer stand up in court and present an argument, as barristers do daily? I also believe that the basic idea of a face-to-face meeting with clients shouldn’t be underplayed.

Having said this, there is of course a global movement towards the use of AI for, well, pretty much everything it seems. And the technology takeover we’ve seen so far in the 21st century will undoubtedly not stop with the legal profession. A recent study by Jon Kleinberg reveals that human judges in New York (and presumably globally) are 25% less effective than AI when deciding on whether defendants should be selected for bail or not. This is an area where I concede that computers are in fact the better option, as it is inevitable that humans, when looking into the eyes of another human and having to decide their sentence, will be prejudiced by some bias, even if they are unaware of this themselves.

Another argument people often put forward when praising AI in comparison to real life lawyers is that of cost; a computer, in theory, costs a lot less than paying a human, and often takes only a fraction of the time to do the same work. AI is undeniably useful for things such as analysing raw data from previous cases and calculating outcome statistics, and therefore will become hugely effective in cases involving such things as workplace discrimination or medical liability disputes, as it is much better at eliminating bias.

But there are certain jobs on which it is not worth saving the pennies. Most importantly, a lawyer often needs to show compassion in their work, something a computer is simply unable to do. It seems likely, and there are articles arguing, that AI will just replace the above mentioned menial tasks, and therefore make the life of a lawyer easier. Leaving lawyers with more time to do the creative thinking and come up with effective proposals and solutions, helped and supported by AI generated and analysed data.

It is clear that there are positives and negatives to AI being used in the legal profession, and it is yet to be seen how it will really progress. I’ll leave you with Neil Sahota’s Forbes article which offers a good range of professional commentary on the matter, and gives a balanced argument about just how far AI might be of use in the future of the legal profession.

I however, remain positive that pursuing a career in law is still a great choice!

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