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April 2018
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June 2018

Will Robots Replace Lawyers?

Stacked3Here is this week's Daily Record column. My past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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Over the past year, there’s been a lot of talk about artificial intelligence (AI) and its potential, both negative and positive. Some tout an idyllic world where robots cater to the every want and need of humans. Others, like Elon Musk, take a more guarded approach and warn of a world where machines gain sentience and threaten humanity.

Philosophical issues aside, AI remains in its infancy, but already shows great promise. You need look no further than self-driving cars for proof of that.

But what does it mean for the legal industry? How will AI impact the practice of law and will robot lawyers soon become a reality, thereby eradicating the need for human lawyers? The short answer: AI won’t replace lawyers, but it will automate the more mundane aspects of practicing law, allowing lawyers to focus on more interesting, high level analytical tasks.

Not convinced? Consider the results of the 2016 Deloitte study, “Developing Legal Talent: Stepping Into the Future Law Firm." The central thesis of this report is that by 2020, the practice of law will be dramatically different than it is today, in large part due to the effects of technological change, with AI playing a large part. 

For starters, one of the conclusions was that 114,000 jobs in the legal sector will become automated within the next 20 years. And, according to the report, automation has already resulted in the reduction of 31,000 jobs in the industry, mostly in administrative roles. For lawyers, those most at risk are predicted to be entry level attorneys, and highly skilled lawyers will be safe from the reductions. The report indicates that demand for highly skilled lawyers will increase to 25,000 more by 2020. 

Specifically, over the next 10 years, it is predicted that the following changes will likely occur because of changes in technology:

  • Fewer traditional lawyers in law firms
  • A new mix of skills among the elite lawyers
  • Greater flexibility and mobility within the industry
  • A reformed workforce structure and alternative progression routes
  • A greater willingness to source people from other industries with non-traditional skills and training.

And it’s not just transactional law that will be affected. Litigation practices will also feel the touch of AI. Look no further than the news from last week that Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, a labor and employment-focused Am Law 100 firm, now uses LegalMation, AI software that works with IBM’s Watson technology to draft an answer to a complaint. With this software users drag and drop a PDF of the complaint into the platform and designate a practice area. The software then drafts an answer to the complaint, which it provides within approximately 2 minutes.

Ready or not, AI is here. AI and the automation of much of the mundane aspects of law practice will undoubtedly have a tremendous impact on the practice of law - and much earlier than you might think. So it’s worth learning about how it might affect our profession so that you can take steps to position your practice and your firm to take advantage of the changes, rather than be displaced by them. 

Mark my words: AI will undoubtedly change the legal profession. You can either resist its impact to your detriment, or take steps to acclimate and use it to your advantage. The choice is yours.

Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney, author, journalist, and the Legal Technology Evangelist at MyCase  law practice management software. She is the author of the ABA book Cloud Computing for Lawyers, co-authors the ABA book Social Media for Lawyers: the Next Frontier, and co-authors Criminal Law in New York, a Thomson Reuters treatise. She writes legal technology columns for Above the Law and ABA Journal and speaks regularly at conferences regarding the intersection of law and technology. She can be reached at niki.black@mycase.com.


Round Up: Time-tracking Software, Legal Beach Reads, Artificial Intelligence, and More

RoundupI often write articles and blog posts for other outlets and am going to post a round up here from time to time (but won't include my weekly Daily Record articles in the round up since I re-publish them to this blog in full). Here are my posts and articles from April 2018:

 


ABA survey shows lawyers are more mobile than ever in 2018

Stacked3Here is this week's Daily Record column. My past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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ABA survey shows lawyers are more mobile than ever in 2018

The iPhone was released in 2007, and it revolutionized the way that we communicate and access information. Smartphones, once a novelty, are now commonplace, in the legal profession. This is because, unlike other types of technology, lawyers jumped on the mobile bandwagon fairly quickly.

As evidenced by the results of the 2017 ABA Legal Technology Survey, lawyers are more mobile than ever before. The reasons are many: mobile computing offers convenience, flexibility, and 24/7 access to important information. Given all the benefits, it’s no wonder that lawyers have taken to mobile devices like a fish takes to water.

According to the survey results, lawyers use a number of different types of mobile devices for law-related tasks while away from their offices. Smartphones are the most commonly used, with 96% of lawyers reporting that they used smartphones while outside the office. Lawyers from firms of 10-49 and from firms of 100-499 used them the most often, with both sets of lawyers reporting usage levels at 98%. Next up were lawyers from firms of 500 or more (97%), followed by lawyers from firms of 50-99 (96%), 2-9 (95%), and solos (93%).

Laptops are also popular, with 81% of lawyers using them for law-related purposes while away from the office. Lawyers from firms of 500 or more reported the greatest use of laptops while out of the office (94%). Lawyers from firms of 100-499 were next at 89%, followed by lawyers form firms of 50-99 (85%), 2-9 (83%), 10-49 (82%), and solos. (74%).

Lawyers were the least likely to use tablets for mobile access while away from the office, with 50% reporting that they did so. Lawyers from firms of 500 or more used tablets the most often (61%). Next up were lawyers form firms of 2-9 (52%), followed by lawyers from firms of 10-49 (51%), solos (49%), lawyers form firms of 50-99 (46%), and lawyers form firms of 100-499 (36%).

According to the lawyers surveyed, they used mobile devices from a variety of different locations.The most common place that lawyers used their mobile devices was their home (96%), followed by hotels (93%), while in transit (89%), airports (85%), clients’ offices (75%), in the courthouse (70%), and other attorneys’ offices (71%).

When it comes to courtroom usage, according to the survey, 57% of lawyers who appear in court have used laptops in the courtroom, up from 46% in 2014. Tops uses for laptops include email (34%), accessing key evidence and documents (33%), legal research (29%), accessing court documents and dockets (27%), calendaring (24%), and delivering presentations (23%).

80% of lawyers who appear in court report using their smartphone in court. Some of the most popular uses include: email (72%), calendaring (58%), real-time communications (44%), legal research (24%), accessing court dockets and documents (15%), and accessing the firm’s network (14%).

When it comes to tablets, 38% of lawyers who appear in court reported using them in court. Tablets were used to accomplish a number of tasks, including email (29%), legal research (25%), calendaring (21%), accessing court documents and dockets (16.5%), and accessing key evidence and documents (15%).

So that’s how lawyers are using mobile devices to practice law in 2018. How does your mobile device usage compare? If you use your mobiles devices less often than your colleagues, perhaps you’re not fully taking advantage of the many benefits the mobile computing offers.
Then again, there are undoubtedly drawbacks to the mobile age, not the least of which is the psychological impact of the perception of 24/7 availability. While it’s not always an easy juggling act, the benefits of mobile access are many, both for lawyers and their clients. The key is to find the right balance between the convenience of easy access to information and maintaining the necessary boundaries between work and your home life. Once you’ve found a balance that works for you, you’ll reap the benefits of the flexibility of mobile computing.

Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney, author, journalist, and the Legal Technology Evangelist at MyCase, intuitive, powerful law practice management software for solo and small law firms. She is also the author of the ABA book Cloud Computing for Lawyers, co-authors the ABA book Social Media for Lawyers: the Next Frontier, and co-authors Criminal Law in New York, a West-Thomson treatise. She is the founder of lawtechTalk.com and speaks regularly at conferences regarding the intersection of law and technology. She can be reached at niki.black@mycase.com.