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Can We Build a Robotic Lawyer to Rip Off People for Less?


Good news, everyone! Scientists have now developed AI that can complete law school, pass the bar exam, and provide legal services to humans. The bad news? These robots aren’t charging you an arm and a leg like real lawyers – in fact, they’re charging you nothing at all! Read on to find out how these robot legal assistants work their magic, whether or not you should hire one for your next court case, and what this means for the future of law in America.

Today’s Legal Profession
It’s hard to believe that, once upon a time, lawyers were looked up to and respected by everyone. Sure, they might have charged exorbitant fees, but there was something about them—the way they dressed and talked—that suggested they knew what they were doing. Today’s legal profession has lost its luster; not only do lawyers have an almost comical lack of knowledge when it comes to technology—who can forget that episode of The Good Wife where Chris Noth goes into court and completely botches his case due to being technologically illiterate?—but many seem more interested in prolonging trials than resolving disputes. The good news is: We might be able to build a robot that handles both aspects of law with great efficiency.

Artificial Intelligence Is Here
Although we may still be in what many call the AI winter, AI has already made its way into our lives. We just don’t know it. From smartphones and voice assistants like Alexa and Siri, all the way up to self-driving cars and automated weapons systems, artificial intelligence is being used across all sorts of industries and applications. One of those applications may soon be our justice system… But should we trust an artificially intelligent lawyer with making decisions about who goes to jail or prison? What if that lawyer makes a mistake, even one that costs someone their freedom or their life? Are lawyers today perfect—no mistakes—and if not, how much worse could an AI lawyer be by comparison? Can we build a robotic lawyer that can rip off people for less than real lawyers do today? How long will it take us to get there?

Yes, Robots Will Change the Legal Industry
The introduction of computers had an immediate impact on most industries, and lawyers aren’t immune to their influence. The use of computers in legal practice has been around since at least 1964. But only recently have entrepreneurs started to think about ways that technology can change how we interact with our legal counsel. We’re already seeing a huge shift toward firms that do more virtual law practices, which allow customers to keep track of their legal issues via email or phone rather than traveling downtown. As technology progresses, it seems inevitable that virtual meetings will replace in-person ones (especially considering how many lawyers avoid face-to-face interaction with clients as it is). Could artificially intelligent robots represent our future attorneys?

The Way Forward
What do we mean by robotic lawyer? We’re not talking about some sort of humanoid, C-3PO type computer (although don’t get us wrong, we think that’s pretty cool). To us, a robotic lawyer is an artificial intelligence program that can do legal work. From contracts and patents to research and discovery, it would take over many tasks typically assigned to lawyers. This may sound like science fiction, but there are certainly companies working on it today. And in fact, early adopters have been using them for years in search of better efficiency and profitability in their firms. There has also been substantial investment by tech titans like Google and IBM as well as more traditional law firms looking for ways to cut costs without sacrificing quality or efficiency.

The Global Legal Industry brings in over US$800 Billion each year. However, lawyers are frequently criticized as greedy and selfish, and it’s not hard to see why. The legal system is largely made up of paperwork and forms that lawyers must fill out just to be able to take on cases.

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