I don’t believe the legal profession will continue to exist as it is today for much longer. The profession has changed over the decades and centuries as technology has changed, especially in the last decade, but what I can see happening is something far more radical. As cognitive systems like IBM’s Watson start to have more of an impact in our daily activities and become smarter, they will begin to do more and more of the work lawyers do far faster, more effectively and cheaper.
The challenge for lawyers is figuring out what their roles will be in the next 10 to 20 years. I suspect we will see at least two types of “lawyers” emerging:
- Legal technicians who serve as coders, tweaking these cognitive systems, supplying them with additional inputs they don’t already receive from being plugged into the Web and all connected data systems; and
- Legal information architects who map out the high level policy models and structures that will guide how laws develop and evolve in conjunction with these smart machines and their deep learning.
I came across two articles on the weekend which explore aspects of this which you may want to read if this topic interests you:
- Kenneth Grady’s “Any work left for lawyers to do by 2020?“
- Geoff Colvin’s “In the future, will there be any work left for people to do?“
I wrote an article recently which was a thought experiment of sorts about what this future could look like. It was focused on a vehicle sale in 2034 (of course a futurist chimed in on Twitter that people won’t be buying cars in the future, so there’s that reality check) and I don’t think we are that far away from this sort of reality.