Robot Lawyers?

Statue of justice isolated on white background

There are quite a few lists of jobs that will be endangered by robots online now. You can look up your particular job and see whether you ought to be looking into alternative retraining, or if you have a job that robots can’t currently do.

Here are just a few:

What do these very different lists have in common? None of them thinks that lawyers are in danger of losing out to robots.

Can legal tasks be automated?

An article at The Conversation begs to differ. The authors found that some very time-consuming tasks done by lawyers can be automated.

They were trying to use machine learning to identify characteristics of successful citations. Citations are those things like “Brown v. Board of Education 347 U.S. 483 (1954).” They discovered that, just like folding laundry, identifying legal citations was too hard for robots.

Too much punctuation.

It’s easy for humans to skim a legal brief and find the citations, but robots can’t do it without laborious programming. However, the researchers found something else their software could do. “We could build a database with software that would just tell lawyers the best cases to cite,” they were surprised to discover. “All you would need to is feed the other side’s brief into the machine.”

In theory…

Like so many tasks we hear that robots can do, this is only possible in theory. The researchers didn’t actually try it out. But it seemed to them that it could be done.

Comparing this idea to the shift from hand-embroidered undies to machine-embroidered ones, they concluded that “automation could help reduce the cost of legal services, making it more accessible for the many individuals who can’t afford a lawyer.”

Many of the observers who are working to figure out which jobs are likely to be automated have concluded that tasks — maybe one third of all the tasks workers currently do — will be automated, rather than entire jobs.

This could mean that some of those workers will lose their jobs. Managers, for example, may have a lot less work to do. If one third of their tasks are automated, that could mean that one third of the managers will be out of a job and the others will just take over the remaining work. Factories could have fewer managers covering the same amount of work.

Will lawyers lose their jobs?

But the lawyers might be in a different position.They might be needed for the clever and creative development of defense strategies, or the courtroom savvy that lets them argue a position persuasively. They might not have to do so much filling out of forms or background research.

If the most basic and repetitive stuff can be at least partially automated, it could be done faster and more cheaply. This, the authors suggest, would allow people who currently can’t afford lawyers’ services to hire lawyers. It would bring in a whole new market for legal services.

Just as those Edwardian ladies who couldn’t afford hand embroidered petticoats could indulge in machine embroidery once it became available, a new class of customers would emerge for lawyers.

Lawyers wouldn’t lose their jobs.

Your motion control systems

Legal automation won’t involve motion control, as far as we can tell, but industrial automation generally does. For decades, Rexroth motion control has been taking care of automation in challenging situations all over the world. We specialize in Rexroth motion control systems. When you need service or support for your Rexroth electric industrial drive and control systems, you can trust in us.


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