Fear not the robot lawyer

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Lawyers aren’t going to have to fight the replicants for their jobs just yet – at least according to one expert, who says computers will never replicate certain human qualities that lawyers must have.

“The burning question on everyone’s mind is ‘When is this robot lawyer going to replace me?’” said Shamla Naidoo, IBM ‎global chief information security officer.

Speaking last Friday at the American Bar Association’s Techshow, Naidoo said that computers will never replicate empathy or utilise psychology, qualities that are important for lawyers to have, the ABA Journal reported.

“The way we think about it at IBM is that this is an ecosystem of man and machine working together to augment human intelligence. The purpose is to extend human capabilities, not replace humans,” she said.

Rather than worrying about job loss, Naidoo said she sees transparency as more important.

“People should see it and be able to talk about it. … Mistrust is detrimental to our profession,” she said.

Ross Intelligence CEO Andrew Arruda pointed out that artificial intelligence has been around for 60 to 80 years, with much of what had been theorised now being done in fields such as finance and health. AI is still in its early stages in the legal landscape, he said, but it is already being used for legal research, contract review, e-discovery, and due diligence.

Expanding on the idea, FastCase CEO Ed Walters said that AI tends to be overhyped.

“We always tend to overestimate what software can do over the next two years and underestimate what it can do over the next 10,” he said.

But the availability of more processing power – and the sheer amount of data that is produced – mean AI is likely here to stay, Walters said. He said that lawyers should focus current capabilities while being open to advancement of the technologies.

The tech experts said that AI provides opportunities for lawyers, as the development of more fields, including driverless cars, mean more legal work will be needed


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