Legal AI or ALI marketing is stuck in a dumb cycle – repeating over and over again that a legal robot will not replace lawyers, will not take away their jobs. The story is that even though legal AI or ALI can currently “do” from 13 percent to 25 percent of what lawyers do–let’s average that to, say, 20% and then translate it into a temporal factor, say, 20% of the (billable!) hours devoted to client services, just for the sake of argument, the scary chasm will be instantly filled with different, more useful and thus more easily billable work.
On that scenario those lawyers will do, perform, more useful service to their clients, that is, they will fill the temporary vacuum, 20% of billable time, created by the legal robot with other sorts of billable hours, or be able to provide and bill for services to another client.
So far, no worries, right? But imagine a group of 5 lawyers in a law firm who were forced to spend evenings and weekends servicing client needs creating all sorts of damage–drinking, divorce, unhappiness. The managing partners are unusually concerned and propose hiring one more lawyer, a new one fresh out of law school or a clerkship, to ease the work load. But wait, says one of the managing partners, since we “hired” the legal robot, the time “replaced” in our group of 5 lawyers is –lets do the math: 5 x 20% = 100% = that one new hire. So, let’s make the legal robot a partner, and none of our group of 5 lawyers will be replaced or lose their jobs. And we don’t need another client because will just regenerate the problem of “no time for fun and family.” Sure, the legal robot comes at a cost, but nowhere near the partnership level; in fact far less cost than a new hire with all the benefits (and never mind the politics sure to come with another human being on board).
Everybody happy now? NO, the prospect fresh out of law school HAS BEEN REPLACED!
The below podcast is quite typical of the marketing messaging by ALI outfits:
The real message, by all reason, has to be that if legal AI or ALI replaces lawyer time, then eventually it will replace some lawyers or, at a minimum, reduce the number of lawyer jobs going forward.
Consider what the Susskinds write in The Future of the Professions: How Technology Will Transform the Work of Human Experts:
There are two possible futures for the professions. The first is reassuringly familiar. It is a more efficient version of what we already have today. On this model, professionals continue working much as they have done since the middle of the nineteenth century, but they heavily standardize and systematize routine activities. They streamline their old ways of working. The second future is a very different proposition. It involves a transformation in the way that the expertise of professionals is made available to society. The introduction of a wide range of increasingly capable systems will, in various ways, displace much of the work of traditional professionals. In the short and medium terms, these two futures will be realized in parallel. In the long run, the second future will dominate, we will find new and better ways to share expertise in society, and our professions will steadily be dismantled.