Column: Will We Need Lawyers By 2050?

July 12, 2017

Chris Garrod Bermuda July 2017[Opinion column written by Chris Garrod]

My 6 year old son may never have to learn to drive a car. We may at that stage in his life all be driven around in driver-less cars. All thanks to current advancements being made in automation and in artificial intelligence.

That fact alone boggles my mind.

A Starting Point: Automation vs Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence [AI] is something we cannot ignore. But there are two areas where AI often gets incorrectly blurred: the areas of automation and actual AI itself.

Often, when one says the words “artificial intelligence”, the immediate reaction is to think of hardware in a factory which makes humans redundant because the humans are no longer required. Robots or machines will essentially steal jobs. To be fair, there is some truth to this, particularly in the middle class manufacturing sector, where automation and robotics may have an effect.

For instance, simple chatbots will replace humans in call centers. Uber drivers will be replaced by driver-less cars. Industrial workers will be replaced by machines and robots. And gradually, everything in your house will be practically controlled by your cell phone or some other device. We are at the beginning of a “Fourth Industrial Revolution”.

But there is also much speculation that in spite of this job loss, automation will actually boost wealth, creating new jobs in the digital and service sectors. That is to say, it will lead to greater efficiency within the work place and lead us to work better.


But automation is very different from actual AI itself. AI goes one step further than pure automation, which simply is a function of — as the name suggests — doing things automatically. AI is about trying to mimic human intelligence.

AI requires a lot more work than what is required in order to automate. Automation is easy to predict, while AI, just like the human brain, can be programmed in many different ways. That is why the use of AI will, possibly in some sectors of many industries, still take many years to accomplish.

AI is, however, already being used in your everyday life and you probably don’t really realize it. Going to Amazon and seeing what you might be interested in purchasing. Turning on Netflix and seeing it predict shows you might want to watch. YouTube’s recommendations. Siri. Alexa. Google Assistant. Even fraud alerts from banks.

The “deep learning” AI requires involves more than just new jobs in the service sector — it requires humans to learn, to analyze, manage and ultimately train the machines and robots which are attempting to perform the human roles. That will lead to a whole new level of job positions which will require training not just in universities, but starting in high schools. Coding will become as relevant to your child’s education as English and Mathematics are today.

Books Bermuda July 2017

The Modern Legal World

So, what does this future hold for the legal industry? Will clients in, say, 2050 be obtaining legal advice from robots? In 2060? Or will clients need human lawyers? Will judges be making decisions based on AI?

Much of the “legaltech” world boils down to two concepts: [a] matters which require data input and export and [b] matters which require legal knowledge and analysis.

Legal Data

Simple matters: forming companies; simple paralegal type functions, such as bundling documents; basic research and due diligence; issuing versimple legal opinions; drafting things like wills and basic court applications; and matters extending to the administrative functions within law firms, such as performing KYC on new clients and HR functions. Many of these processes are form filling exercises. Any process which is largely basic and can be conducted in volume based on precedent, will eventually be more or less automated, with the correct programming over time.

Will this lead to fewer lawyers? It will certainly lead to greater efficiency in law firms — a lesser reliance on human administrative functions [HR, KYC, paralegals, even perhaps more junior associates/assistants]. This is a combination of both automation and AI at work. There are some examples of firms already using AI technology, e.g. to weed out employee applications, as well as due diligence platforms such as Luminance, which is being used for M&A transactions.

It will certainly affect how firms invoice/bill their clients. When contracts and legal opinions can be reviewed using a high level of AI with little human input, the traditional model of billing clients on a “time spent” basis will become obsolete. Lawyers will need to adapt to AI technology as it spreads before they lose clients to other firms which have adopted the technology faster.

Legal Analysis and Robotics

Robots and the law. Can a judge be a robot? Can robots give more complicated legal advice based on legal analysis? This isn’t automated — it is something which would require very deep learning by the machine and AI programmers behind it.

AI will be very, very intelligent in the future, that is certain. And there are examples of risk-assessment AI tools already being used in some courts in the United States.

But technology has its limitations.

For example, a matter which absolutely requires human intelligence, such as a matter in a court where human creativity and judgment are needed in order to obtain the correct result. Or a complex legal opinion with intricacies where a human touch is absolutely required to achieve the correct result.

That is not to say — in the very distant future — some of those limitations cannot be overcome. But it is not possible to predict the future. There is, however, one thing which AI will likely never be able to replicate and that is empathy.

So yes, we should expect that during our lifetime, artificial intelligence will become something which the world will need to prepare itself for. Artificial intelligence has been described by Steven Hawking as humanity’s last invention and that it could even spell the end of mankind.

One thing is for certain: the legal world will certainly change as a result of AI, and relatively soon. But bear in mind that AI is programmed technology. And it will only be as effective and useful as those humans programming it. So it is absolutely vital to ensure those programmers have the sufficient skills and experience to do so.

- Chris Garrod is a Bermuda insurance attorney with opinions on AI, legaltech, insurtech, IoT and fintech.


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Comments (3)

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  1. Jeremy Deacon says:

    Chris … I think we all need to retrain as plumbers. we could also save ourselves a lot of money by sending our kids to trade schools to be … plumbers.

  2. Interesting says:

    Good thing Mr Hill has such an interest in Politricks then.

  3. Albie says:

    Pity the poor politicians who will google ” How to make money in politics?” Because there won’t be a human willing co conspirator ready to assist them because currently robots aren’t very good at being duplicitous.