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Thursday, June 20, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

A Brave New World

Excuse me, is that a lawyer in your pocket?

Or are you just glad to see me?


Those of you who have read the cover story of the current Atlantic Monthly will know what I'm talking about. It's called "The Robot Will See You Now" and it's about technology taking over or adding to the jobs of doctors.

You know what that means.

If there are robot doctors, there are going to be robot lawyers.

Pretty much everything that applies to doctors in that article - from instantly analyzing enormous amounts of information to keeping up on the latest research - applies to lawyers too. And a lot of doctor/lawyer functions are being turned into smart phone apps.

"As sensors shrink and improve, they will increasingly allow health to be tracked constantly and discreetly," according to the Atlantic.

Now substitute the word "health" with "legal status."

If you slip and fall, your professional device can call an ambulance and file suit simultaneously.

If you're a criminal, you can get an instant read on the likelihood of being caught and potential punishment, and do a cost-benefit analysis.

Already committed the crime without doing the research?

You can discover high-percentage escape routes and arrange financing for bail if necessary.

It's a brave new world, but I know you have many questions. I'll try to answer some of them.

When my robot lawyer sues my robot doctor, is it a conflict of interest if both robots are manufactured by the same company?

Of course it is. The two robots are likely to be thinking alike. You don't want that.

Try to hire a robot that used to be a doctor but got fed up with the system (the operating system).

If there are robot lawyers on both sides, won't there be immediate settlements?

No. You'll still have human clients who won't like anything.

What if the power goes out?

We'll be back in the Stone Age because no one will know how to do anything. Try not to think about this.

Will there be robot judges and juries?

There may be some robot judges but not a lot because humans like to think they're in charge. There will not be robot juries - robots will be too good at getting out of jury duty.

What if my robot lawyer has a virus?

Call your robot doctor.

Won't there be fewer legal jobs if lawyer robots take over?

No. But the robots will have the jobs.

Won't there be robot criminals too? How will lawyer robots keep up with them?

No, there won't be robot criminals. Robots have no need for power, wealth, fame or drugs. Yes, they may occasionally kill a human or two but only if the humans deserve it, and judicial robots won't consider that a crime.

Won't all this automation take the fun out of practicing law?

You think practicing law is fun? What's wrong with you?

How will I calculate billable hours if the apps and robots are doing all the work?

Uh, hullo! You've got a robot to do calculations for you! Just program it to pretend to be human.

The bills will mount up in no time.

The only problem is that your law firm will likely not need lawyers.

Consider a degree in computer engineering.

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