In this five minute video, I share my wonder at the rapid advances in computer processing and memory capability and ponder on what it will mean for the practice of law in the next ten years as artificial intelligence and true legal expert systems become a reality.

The concept of artificial intelligence (“AI”) and the potential impact on the human species is fascinating to me.  The ramifications for our profession and the society at large are huge– I think. In the literature there is much fear mongering in the discussions of AI, such as the idea that machines will take over most of the jobs and leave human beings without meaningful occupations or sources of income (or worse).

Fear of the unknown is understandable.  Historically, however, advancements in technology have largely benefited the human condition and improved life.  For example, in 1900, 50% of the US population lived on farms and farming, or farming related work, occupied the majority of US workers.  Contrast that with today where less than 2% of the population lives on farms and less than 4% of the population is employed in farm related work.  If you were a farm worker in 1900 and knew that so many farm jobs would be lost in the upcoming century, you might be very afraid for the ensuing generations– “what will they do for a living?”  As it turned out, such fear of widespread unemployment would have been unwarranted. As technology disrupts and destroys old economic systems, it creates new ones from the rubble.  The trick is to adapt to the new normal.

Like farming in the 1900s, I believe that technology and economic efficiency pressures will force a transformation in the way we practice law. There will likely be fewer lawyers, working more efficiently and at a lower cost. which is probably a good thing for society, if not for us as individuals living through the change.   There will be winners and losers–  those that can adapt and innovate will thrive. Those that cannot will find employment elsewhere.

Below are links to some thought provoking references related to AI and the impact of technological change.   Do you think the practice of law will be fundamentally different in 10 or 20 years?  I invite your comments.

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