Academic journal article The Journal of High Technology Law

The Legal Profession: From Humans to Robots

Academic journal article The Journal of High Technology Law

The Legal Profession: From Humans to Robots

Article excerpt

The legal profession is ripe for change, and technology is that change. (5) Legal innovators are looking for new ways to streamline and make practicing law more efficient and less expensive for clients. (6) One way of achieving this is through the use of artificial intelligence in the performance of legal tasks. (7) Artificial intelligence is an adaptation of how lawyers utilize technology to help them become more efficient by saving time and money. (8) New technologies may have some effect on the amount of lawyers being hired to do what lawyers have traditionally done in the past, but it will also likely lead to new and different employment opportunities for lawyers in the future. (9) Therefore, robots will not be the end of lawyers, but rather, will open up a new area within the legal profession. (10) While a professional era in the legal field has ended, we are now in the midst of forming a new era of advanced legal technology and the further demise of the traditional law firm. (11)

Additionally, there is an ethical line that must be drawn on how far the legal profession and other professions using artificial intelligence can utilize these programs in areas such as reasoning, interactions, and even court appearances. (12) Research on this subject does not look at the legal implications and issues of using artificially intelligent lawyers and how this may effect society. Robots or their computer programmers are not lawyers, so if robots are practicing law, is this considered the unauthorized practice of law? (13) Moreover, is this ethically permissible if a licensed lawyer is inputting the legal information, arguments, and rules into the artificial intelligence program? This Note will look at the legal issue of non-lawyers performing legal tasks and the ethical and statutory contradictions in the legal profession. Additionally, this Note will foreshadow future law that will not allow robots or "artificially intelligent lawyers" to advocate for clients in court, negotiate on behalf of clients, or facilitate mediations.

II. History

Over the past 40 years, the way law firms have been structured and how they operate has changed dramatically, mostly due to advances in technology. (14) Legal scholars note that large firms were extremely inefficient in the 1980s, a time where large firms were also on the rise. (15) Consequently, in the 1980s, there was a significant increase in the amount of lawyers in the United States. (16) In 1980, there were around 542,000 lawyers in the United States, and by 1984, that amount increased to roughly 649,000. (17) With this rapid increase in the number of lawyers, firms increased in size and more associates were hired. (18) Associates were paid very highly to perform basic tasks such as proofreading briefs, reviewing documents, and to continuously reinvent the wheel. (19) However, this began to change after the 1980s when law firms became savvier by hiring outside vendors, paralegals, and contract lawyers to cut costs on tasks associates were previously doing. (20)

Paralegals and legal assistants are non-lawyer support staff who have an understanding of the law and perform tasks such as researching cases, preparing discovery, interviewing clients, witnesses and other non-parties, preparing case summaries, and general case management. (21) Even though the lawyer does not perform these tasks, they still bill the tasks to the client, but at a lower rate. (22) The issue of what and how lawyers could delegate tasks came up in the Supreme Court of New Jersey's Committee on the Unauthorized Practice of Law. (23) This committee decided that attorneys were able to delegate legal tasks to paralegals, as long as the attorney or firm maintains direct relationships with their clients, supervise the paralegal's work, and remain responsible for work product. (24) This decision gave lawyers even more leeway in outsourcing tasks to paralegals that were previously performed by associates. …

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