Posted on March 26, 2017
7 thoughts on Lawyers losing their jobs to Robots
Noory Bechor, CEO LawGeex
In a detailed piece, The New York Times looked at the likelihood of robots taking lawyer jobs. It was not alone in raising this scenario. In the same week came different stories with similar headlines: “Fear not the Robot Lawyer,” “I Robot Took Your Job,” and “The Robot Lawyers are Coming” (with a caveat in this last article, at least, that these Robots are here to help).
Whenever lawyers (and non-lawyers) find out about LawGeex, which provides AI contract approval, these same concerns are raised. Are lawyers about to lose their jobs to Robots?
Here are some thoughts:
1) Lawyering is not entirely automatable
The threat of legal jobs being lost is not entirely science fiction. JP Morgan has created software that does in seconds what it is claimed took lawyers 360,000 hours. With the launch of our One Hour Contract Approval through AI automation (and human lawyers quality review) it no longer makes sense to wait a week or longer to approve a contract. Most organizations are cutting lawyers’ hours on this task. They are retargeting lawyer resources to more strategic work. But lawyering is not like car manufacturing. It is not entirely automatable. To cite one other article on this subject in the same week, a data scientist at a top eDiscovery firm says: “While there are functions of AI that are very well-suited to replacing many of the more defined tasks, legal practice requires advanced cognitive abilities and problem-solving skills in environments of legal and factual uncertainty”.
2) Lawyers do not like the drudge work anyway
Lawyers are smart people and do not enjoy doing robotic legal work. This is work junior lawyers hated doing in the first place. Reviewing NDAs is not what anyone went to law school for. Most of our in-house counsel clients are quite direct that they just want burdensome processes and simple contracts off their plates completely.
For me, it was mind-blowing that some of the biggest companies in the U.S still create contracts and review everyday contracts manually. I was feeling this pain every day as a corporate lawyer, and that’s what convinced me that a significant part of this could be automated.
It is no surprise that so many “robot lawyer” creators — from Andrew Arruda (AI legal research) at Ross to Michael Mills Neota Logic Inc (AI expertise automation)— left old-world law. They are enhancing the profession for a new generation of lawyers to better enjoy their work (which I frankly did not as a corporate lawyer) and get home at a reasonable time. This is the biggest promise of technology. As we have said in a previous post, lawyers want to hire a robot to focus on more strategic work (in short to hire a Robot to (finally) get sh*t done).
3) Lawyers will use robots much like pilots use autopilot
In the 1940s, airline pilots were also worried about the rise of autopilot technology. They feared it would take away their jobs, much like lawyers have expressed concern about technology today. However, the successful pilots were those that realized this technology could tackle the mundane tasks, and it ultimately gave them more tools and better data. The pilots that embraced this new technology paved the way in their profession, resulting in better working conditions, safer travel, and a boon to the airline industry that has changed the world today as we know it.
4) Robots are dependable employees when hired
We have had in-house counsel coming to us after a junior lawyer — having mastered their contract review and approval process —decided to move on. Not only was a valuable employee lost because of drudgery, but all the experience she had obtained went with her. For this level of work hiring a robot makes sense. It does not forget anything, makes far fewer mistakes – and unlike the coffee-powered human reviewer, it does not get tired.
5) The legal pie is actually likely to grow
In one more AI jobs article this week (“Robots are Only The Latest in a Long Line of Job Killers”), Andrew Coyne said that despite automation the world now has the biggest employment it has ever seen. In contrast, the legal sector is almost untouched by technology and has hit a wall for employment. If we take online travel (perhaps the industry which has become most automated and online in our lifetime) something fascinating happened. Since the algorithms and automation of online booking, replacing the old world of travel agents, the travel industry has actually grown in players and in revenue.
From an already sizeable 475 billion U.S. dollar revenue in 2000, the travel sector more than doubled to generate more than one trillion dollars in 2014. Like with travel, so for law. Vodafone Global Enterprise overhauled its in-house legal team invested in an 18-month transformation project underpinned by time-saving technology. Kerry Phillip, legal director at Vodafone, used this new strategy to increase her team from 35 in 2014 to a wider team of 80 — around 50 of whom are lawyers.
6) The new type of lawyer powers revenue and employment
Lawyers powering growth will drive employment, enhancing the strategic status of the lawyer. The Association of Corporate Counsel’s Global Census finds that entrance to the C-suite is now based on the in-house lawyer defining and delivering maximum value. In particular, this means using technology to demonstrate efficiencies and realize promotion prospects. Uber General Counsel Salle Yoo encapsulates the right type of strategic legal being indispensable for a company. “I always tell my team, we are not here to solve legal problems, we are here to solve business problems. The law is our tool and it’s the specialty tool we have.” To counter the argument of job cuts, Uber’s legal team has risen from one (when Yoo arrived) to 220 today. In our own experience, we have found our fastest-growing number of customers come from sales-driven companies who require deals to go through quickly and are saying no to old ways of doing things. To quote Uber’s Salle Yoo one more time “I’ve stopped counting the number of times the answer to a problem has been ‘well, it’s never been done before, but let’s figure out a way to move forward!”. Tech is a means to this business end. Data and AI solutions can provide detailed data analysis for metrics, measurements, and benchmarks against competitors in the industry, arming lawyers with the power to grow their teams. Using legal data and their law specialty to promote business goals, lawyers in IP are using technology to deploy big data sets to more effectively analyze the brands they are protecting. These lawyers are spotting warning signals of upcoming issues, ultimately increasing the value of the brand portfolio.
7) Technology will sustain a new type of lawyer (millennial, and a leader!)
The skillset requires of lawyers have already changed. We have lived through digitization in courts, the embracing of e-Discovery and analytics, and witnessed an increased reliance on data to resolve disputes. Legal teams have seen technology and data-driven decision-making happening now. Tellingly. in his first message as the inaugural chair of the legal operations membership section of the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC), Reese Arrowsmith said: “We have probably all read articles about how [AI] and other technology will reduce the number of lawyers needed. This truly fundamental change will require legal departments and the legal industry to rethink how they function, and the legal operations role will be instrumental in that transition. Companies are going to need to adopt, and will want to adopt, these new solutions.” This is a good thing for business and global economic growth.
The relationship with AI needs to be seen like switching to autopilot for certain low level tasks. This is quite different than submitting to new robot overlords. Embracing change will plot a flightpath for a resurgent, larger, smarter and more profitable legal profession.
For more information or a LawGeex demo Get In Touch.
Noory Bechor CEO and Founder of LawGeex is a man on a mission: to revolutionize the legal world through innovative technology. Noory combines his entrepreneurial spirit and years of experience as an international commercial lawyer to help other lawyers #lovelegal again, making their work easy, efficient and impactful.