Will legal expert systems put lawyers out of work?

It’s easy to find articles and blog posts these predicting that intelligent technologies will take work away from lawyers at some point in the future. And maybe that will happen eventually, at least for some lawyers.

But there are two reasons to be confident that intelligent tech like expert systems won’t put lawyers out of work in the near term.

Only some work is at risk of automation

Expert systems are well suited for high volume, repeatable work. They’re not suitable for the once-every-ten-year, complex matters. These situations require specialized services that are best left to humans.

Business cases for tech that can handle super complex legal matters that happen infrequently will rarely be viable. It’s too hard. It takes too long. It’s too expensive. And it often won’t do what we need it to do.

Computers do some things better than humans. But there’s still a lot they can’t do.

Serving the under-served market

But the ‘competition’ between computer capability and human capability is barely relevant when we consider the market intelligent technologies will likely serve. It hinges on latent demand.

Growing reliance on expert systems shouldn’t result in a loss of market share for lawyers because the lower-to-mid level-complexity services who’ll be served by these technologies aren’t being served now. It’s not necessarily a quality issue. It’s an affordability issue.

We’re not just talking about low income individuals. It appears that lawyers are now failing to serve the middle class in many respects these days. This is prime work for intelligent technologies like expert systems.

These technologies aren’t anti-lawyer. Lawyers price themselves – and their legal services out of the market. Intelligent technologies will add value by serving the resulting latent demand for legal services.

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