Will automation take away our jobs? Eventually, according to this Ted Talk. The more interesting question is who are the new hires and buyers in the sector formerly known as Legal?
As this recent CNBC story poignantly states: Lawyers could be the next profession to be replaced by computers. Meanwhile, new possibilities are bound to open up and to find out what these may be I had to reason from first principles.
1. What is Legal Tech? Essentially it is whatever technology supports a Fair Society. For example, the algorithms behind rating your Uber drivers is Legal Tech. They practically replace the vetting and licensing of taxi drivers. Since autonomous vehicles can predict and prevent accidents, they effectively supersede traffic laws and driving licenses. eDiscovery platforms find legal in millions of documents. AI does legal research and can draft contracts. Legal Tech is as ubiquitous as the buttons you see everywhere to report spam and abuse by Internet trolls. Yet it is still as complex as the privacy settings on all your devices and services. Legal Tech is to protect the vulnerable and to provide transparency in business and government.
2. How will Tech replace Legal? Actually, you won’t need to know legal nor understand it’s logic to practice it. Just like you don’t need to learn the drums to create a beat. Heck, most DJ’s can’t even read music notes or play instruments. Same goes for Legal as this video explains how a non-tax expert passed a university tax exam with the use of AI. It’s a sign that robots are set to fire the traditional legal industry. Still, just like music will never go away, legal is here to stay.
3. What will happen to Legal Professionals? Basically, they’ll need to learn a different tune. Here are the main players in the new band:
- Legal Engineers: they create Legal Tech by ‘teaching’ legal logic to machines;
- Collision Detectors: they use Legal Tech to smooth out the differences between humans and businesses.
- Fair Defenders: they need Legal Tech to sustain the checks and balances in our society.
The Legal Industry Roadmap reasoned how Legal Engineers will be building the backbone for fair technologies. Now I’ll highlight the front-office of The Practice.
4. What is the new Practice of Law? Fundamentally, legal knowledge is a social map of humanity’s past, present, and future. Navigating your way thru this universe, one has to match the right skills with the right tools to be able to avoid collisions. That is the underline principle driving the practice of legal professionals. Another way to see this: the Titanic didn’t need a stronger hull, it needed sonar. If you are as mystified as I am when you hear legal professionals talk about “quality” or “higher value work”. They are talking about Sonar and here are three functional narratives to explain this skill:
This article explains how AirBnB’s top counsel helps maneuver their business model through interpretation of justice. She operates as a Regulatory Sonar within the business to help it achieve its goals. These new archetypes will use legal tech to observe legislators, customers and competitors to strategically move the company forward.
Another function of in-house counsel is assisting the entrepreneur in capturing opportunities. These new legal hires aren’t just adept at detecting collisions as potential threats to the business. They have the strategies to turn them into opportunities. A Business Sonar monitors mergers, acquisitions, deals & patents with legal tech to connect the right people and opportunities.
All kidding aside, perhaps the toughest job is having the courage to stand up and speak out. The world isn’t black or white but many shades. No one has a monopoly on justice and there aren’t any alternative facts. That is why we need a failsafe: checks & balances. Fair Defenders act like a Social Sonar and signal erosions of our liberties and act to redeem us.
5. What is the new Business of Law? Initially, while entire industries even democracies operate outside the law, we’ll witness a rise in regulations to win power back. The 2 biggest sectors that will be impacted first are FinTech and Artificial Intelligence, consecutively the flow of wealth and knowledge.
At the opposing end, Governments will evaluate their role and ability to influence populations. They’ll need to integrate legal frameworks into tech platforms to help stabilize their communities. They’ll slowly come to realize that it will be meaningless to carpet bomb with legislation or executive orders.
Here’s a surreal approach from Bill Gates to illustrate: robots that replace human labor should pay taxes. How will governments agree upon taxing all computers in existence if these are just a software upgrade away from replacing us? In short: in this war for wealth & power, #RegTech will dominate the near future.
Ultimately, while businesses regulate more of our lives through technology, governments increasingly lose the ability to do so as well. In this battle for our individuality and to restore the imbalance in society, we’ll have to rely on this force called Humanity.