Automation is also taking over parts of the legal world – automating previously unstructured tasks into structured tasks, such as ““search-and-find type tasks” in electronic discovery, due diligence and contract review”, leaving the tasks not easily automated to humans:
putting all new legal technology in place immediately would result in an estimated 13 percent decline in lawyers’ hours. (source: CAN ROBOTS BE LAWYERS? COMPUTERS, LAWYERS, AND THE PRACTICE OF LAW)
James Yoon, a lawyer in Palo Alto, Calif., recalls 1999 as the peak of the old way of lawyering. A big patent case then, he said, might have needed the labor of three partners, five associates and four paralegals. Today, a comparable case would take one partner, two associates and one paralegal. (VL: this is a reduction of 75%)
As a lot of the legal work can not yet be easily automated as it is based on complex decision making or just plain “showing up (in court proceedings, talking to clients etc.), the algorithms need to be trained by humans to achieve adequate results. This is a time consuming process, but when it’s done it is quite robust and systematic.
Similar to the master craftsman in the automobile industry, lawyers will have to specialize and let semi-skilled workers and machines do the rest of the work. Routine tasks will be commoditized and cheap, largely done by algorithms and assisted labor:
The data-driven analysis technology is assisting human work rather than replacing it. Indeed, the work that consumes most of Mr. Yoon’s time involves strategy, creativity, judgment and empathy — and those efforts cannot yet be automated. Mr. Yoon, who is 49, stands as proof. In 1999, his billing rate was $400 an hour. Today, he bills at $1,100 an hour. “For the time being, experience like mine is something people are willing to pay for,” Mr. Yoon said. “What clients don’t want to pay for is any routine work.” But, he added, “the trouble is that technology makes more and more work routine.”
“Where the technology is going to be in three to five years is the really interesting question,” said Ben Allgrove, a partner at Baker McKenzie, a firm with 4,600 lawyers. “And the honest answer is we don’t know.”