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While legal bloggers often opine on the potential doom and gloom that artificial intelligence and robots will bring to the legal profession, there may be more than one way to handle the incoming robot lawyer apocalypse.
In a recent special business report in the Miami Herald, it's posited that AI and robot lawyers won't supplant human lawyers, but will likely just change the landscape of what a human lawyer does. This idea seems to already be borne out by the technology that has already been implemented, as a majority of legal tech is aimed at improving an attorney's efficiency, despite the fact that we lawyers begrudgingly accept these cost cutting, time saving, revenue reducing advances.
Improving Access Through Efficiency
As noted in the special report and across the web, using the currently available AI and automation tools, upwards of 23% of an attorney's tasks could be automated. And while this number may not be true for every practice area, it could be, and likely is, just a matter of time.
One recently released tool, HelpSelf, is a document automation tool for attorneys, but also prepares and files certain forms for individuals for a low, flat fee. It is conceivable that this market of automated legal services, if developed and saturated enough, could very well bring the costs of some routine legal services down to levels that are actually affordable to regular individuals, or at least non-profit organizations.
Fighting Against or With the Machine
For attorneys that face losing revenue to automated legal services, or the AI robot lawyers of the future, there's really only a couple options: Attorneys can let the tech companies build these services alone, and thus subject the public to the potential dangers of bad legal counsel due to bad programming; Or, attorneys can get involved to shape the way these technologies operate.
In addition to working with the tech companies, as many attorneys have already chosen to do, state bars and legislatures likely need to act now before the legal AI tech does flood the consumer market. One revolutionary legal tech developer was only 19 years old when his DoNotPay traffic ticket chatbot took off. To ensure that there is a certain level of quality and accountability for automated legal services, before the robot lawyers take over, maybe there should be some regulations in place.