A reality check on a day in the life of the future lawyer

By | December 27, 2018

Virtual Reality Lawyers Meeting

Will this really be how lawyers conduct meetings in 10 years time?

An article in Raconteur from last month was brought to my attention yesterday on Twitter. It is about ‘a day in the life of the future lawyer‘ (how the life of a leading lawyer will be transformed by legal technology in just a decade).

Well, I had thought that the hype around Artificial Intelligence and Legal Technology was well behind us by the time 2018 was coming to a close. Unfortunately not so.

I will provide my thoughts on this article to give it a much needed dose of reality.

Apparently in this brave new world of the future:-

Being connected through the internet of things means stepping from home to car to office is a seamless data process of arranging the day’s agenda, absorbing the morning news and responding to overnight developments in the practice at overseas offices. A file that needs to be shared with a client has been processed, not just in terms of the content relevance, but also through the most efficient channel.

Does this not happen already today and has for some time? I can move from home to car (to train, plane or boat for that matter) to office seamlessly using the internet. I am always (maybe not as yet on most planes) connected via the cloud to my law firm’s case management system. I have been via a data centre since 2011 and before that for many years using a VPN to the server in my office.

For our future lawyer:-

once in the office, the first duty of the day is to review a client dispute using predictive analytics.

This is perhaps one of the most likely predictions made for our future lawyer to be doing in 10 years time although I reckon they would be delegating the task to someone else in their firm. However, whilst there may be tools available to assist the process, human brain power and experience will still play a big part in any decision making taken. The future lawyer will need to analyse the predictive analytics with care.

A degree of caution is required with such systems. That may improve in 10 years time. At the moment Artificial Intelligence is not bad at telling the difference between cats and dogs (but not between Chihuahuas and blueberry muffins).

AI can't tell the difference between a chihuahua and a blueberry muffin

It does struggle with the “what-if” scenarios. There are a lot of those in law. See:-

Apparently our future lawyer will have:-

a swift cup of coffee, delivered by Gene, the office robot.

In a year when Russia’s most advanced robot turned out to be a man dressed in a robot suit I’ll hold my breath on Gene the robot delivering a coffee to my office desk anytime soon (see The Automation Charade). If you really can’t be bothered to walk to the office kitchen/vending machine for a coffee just buy a Nespresso machine and set it on your desk.

Legal Robot makes coffee - ordering an Uber will be next

Our future lawyer will be:-

joined in the virtual reality meeting room by two enterprise experts, the chief data officer and the head of communications, who are in overseas offices, and a member of the future lawyer’s team, working from home while on paternity leave.

The ability exists today and has for some considerable time for video conferencing. There have been advancements in that technology over the past 50+ years but I doubt those advancements will see us in virtual reality meeting rooms anytime soon.

Whilst the technology exists today to allow virtual reality meetings it is probably not a practical or cost effective option for most. We will no doubt still use telephone conferencing for some time to come as we often do now in preference to video conferencing. Simplicity and ease of use of established technology often trumps new technology.

Virtual Reality Meeting Rooms?

A member of the future lawyer’s team, working from home while on paternity leave, should not be a futuristic concept (at least the working from home bit). It should be perfectly acceptable and a normal option today. Although whilst on paternity leave you shouldn’t really be working!

The Raconteur article quotes Richard Susskind:-

Online is not an alternative to the courts system, it is the courts system. Within ten years, most cases will be resolved by online courts.

Whilst we may see an increase in the use of online systems by the court service I very much doubt that “within ten years, most cases will be resolved by online courts”.

Back to the law firm of the future, in the Raconteur article, where:-

earlier, online court proceedings had not turned up the desired result, so it is time to go for a full hearing.

But first:-

using telepresence, the firm has hired actors to play the court officials and jury as they run through a mock presentation of the case.

Their client may have something to say about the costs associated with that little exercise! Surely they could at least have drafted in the office robot Gene to assist? But, seriously the mock court may have a place to play in the University education of a lawyer but surely is not something an experienced court practitioner need contemplate?

Next:-

the lawyer of the future … entered the firm’s virtual library to consult some authorities for a case involving a particularly tricky point of law.

No surprise that Westlaw and LexisLibrary will still be in use in 10 years time. Both have been available since the 1970s (then as dial up services). So again not something new for our lawyer of the future.

Our future lawyer then:-

reviews a finance statement on an iPad.

Can’t they do that today?! And surely in 10 years time their iPad will be a thing of fond nostalgic memory as they review a finance statement on a Microsoft ‘Centaurus’ 5?

Then:-

since the client’s business is processed by blockchain, each part of the client’s concluded workload has been processed for payment using cryptocurrency.

Given that, just this past week, a study of more than 40 projects where blockchain was supposed to make services more efficient has found a success rate of zero, maybe your client’s business simply won’t all be on the blockchain in the future.

Surprisingly our future lawyer ends the day by:-

retiring to bed and pressing the last button of the day… lights out.

Surley no buttons would be pressed and it would simply be a case of saying “Alexa, lights out”. That is if by then Artificial Intelligence does not simply detect our future lawyer has gone to bed and switches the lights off for them. That is perhaps more likely to feature in the day of a life of our future lawyer than anything predicted for them by Raconteur that doesn’t already exist today.

The Raconteur article unfortunately commits most if not all of the seven deadly sins of AI predictions. It is also oblivious to the legal technology that already exists and is in use today.

Let’s revisit this in 10 years time and see where we are really at.

Image credits: Chihuahuas and blueberry muffins – mibrujula.com; Digital Transformation meeting – marketoonist


2 Comments

Stephen Embry on 28/12/2018 at 1:15 pm.

Interesting comments. I wrote a similar piece a couple of years ago and would be interested in any thoughts. Heres a link:

https://www.abacusnext.com/blog/new-way-practice-law-lawyers-postcard-ces

Reply

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