Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Will robots replace Lawyers and Paralegals?

First it was the downturn in the economy that threw a monkey wrench into the the legal profession, now Business Insider reports that all signs point to humans becoming obsolete in the workforce.

That's bad news but the really bad news is that Lawyers and Paralegals are among the next 9 jobs projected to be replaced by robots. Really?
"As IBM's Watson proved on Jeopardy, robots are becoming smarter than people. They also make fewer mistakes and they don't get bored."
Smarter than paralegals? Really? Parlegals get bored? Well...maybe.
"By 2013 there will be 1.2 million industrial robots working worldwide -- that's one robot for every 5,000 people, according to Marshall Brain, founder of How Stuff Works and author of Robotic Nation.
"Robots are currently analyzing documents, filling prescriptions, and handling other tasks that were once exclusively done by humans.
The areticle explains why Lawyers and Paralegals could be replaced:
Instead of paying an army of lawyers and paralegals to review documents, software can do the job in a fraction of the time for a fraction of the cost.
The New York Times reported that Blackstone Discovery of Palo Alto, CA provided software that helped analyze 1.5 million documents for less than $100,000.
"From a legal staffing viewpoint, it means that a lot of people who used to be allocated to conduct document review are no longer able to be billed out,” Bill Herr, a lawyer, tells the New York Times. “People get bored, people get headaches. Computers don’t.”
It's true that robots don't require much office space (if any), don't collect benefits or go on vacation. But where does the human contact come in for clients? For that, no one can replace Lawyers and Paralegals.

Now I'm you think you'll be replaced by a robot?


Equus Spirit said...

Umm, maybe not.

You see, Vicki, I come from a field were this was also postulated-and it just isn't so. You see-some human will ALWAYS have to judge whether or not the software is giving out credible results. The stuff is NEVER perfect-never has been and never will be. Oh, they try-and sometimes it comes doggone close, but try as they will, there will be times when the smallest error will creep in. The problem with that is-when you are talking automated systems, that error gets magnified an enormous number of times before it can be caught-and who knows what havoc it has wrought? What software is going to "ride herd" on the software?

Answer: there isn't any.

The "old" saw-GIGO-Garbage In, Garbage Out-still applies. Software cannot evaluate data for validity. To it, all data is just data. Only human intellect can make that call. Does that piece of information belong with that data set? yes or no? Well, you can use statistics to some extent, yes, but even that will only go so far. Sometimes it is pure intuition.

Yeah, in some cases, automation will decrease the ranks of paralegals/legal assistants-or it may change their titles to something quite different-to say, project management, document control, or trial preparation technician. But, you know-that's not always such a bad thing. Find a niche and get in it. It could be your lucky day!

Brooklynn said...

Well as of currently computers are failing daily. They do not go without flaw of some kind. So what everyone is trying to say is that a computer is going to be made to work so hard that it will never blow a circuit, a program will never crash, and that an important document that might be due tomorrow could be lost forever?

To me the thought of taking out human interaction all together is what this world is coming to already. If you think about it look at cell phones and text messaging. Writing too has diminished as short hands like lol and brb just to state a few have hindered the English language.

It is sad WHAT computers have done to the world we have at hand but to think human jobs to be replaced by computers all together is just asking for trouble!

Anonymous said...

Great article Vicki. This is my opinion; can some robots do some of the work that paralegals and attorneys currently do? Absolutely. I am sure that it is not very difficult to write code and have a computer review emails for specific information and have that computer (robot) learn what context the information is needed. However, there are other jobs that a robot will not be able to do. When we interview witnesses or take part i a deposition, we are trained to read facial expressions. Sometimes a facial expression says more than words. I don't think a programer will ever be able to write code to have a computer read human emotions. We will always need people, maybe not so many, and maybe this will be a good thing.