Law Matters | Winter 2016-17

 

 

 

The "Law", as we know, is an amorphous and uncertain animal.  It changes with the tides of public opinion – and we, as lawyers, profit from that ongoing and perpetual uncertainty. We are modern-day explorers, seeking out to find the Northwest Passage for our clients' issues– the "way through" often poorly charted waters, where sandbars and rocks appear and disappear before us with the stroke of a legislator's pen or a judge's decision.

So, then, many of us look to technology as an anathema to our traditional way of business.  If the law cannot be predictable, just how much can a machine based on predictable and certain outcomes facilitate our practice?

Yes.  We can create more documents faster – we can communicate quicker – but is "technology" a legal game-changer in any real and significant way?  This issue discusses that question.

Noren Hirani poses some examples of how technology may facilitate exchange of legal information and improved coordination of legal services for people having difficulty retaining their own counsel in the "access to justice" arena.

Terry Cooper and myself discuss the pros and cons of "the cloud" in serving the interests of lawyers and their clients – and Devin Mylrea provides a more detailed examination of what the "cloud" actually is, and how it works.

In a more substantive way, Dragana Sanchez-Glowicki discusses the use of "artificial intelligence", to take technology from simply improving efficiency to actually engaging in what used to be considered pure "lawyer" work, including the use of ROSS artificial intelligence to engage in "independent intuitive research" and Beagle software to actually analyze contracts to quickly and simply summarize the areas in which a new contract differs from previous contracts, and other software technologies quickly changing how lawyers may do business.

If lawyers can, in some manner, be replaced by computers – Tony Young suggests, why not Judges too – discussing the potential for computer managed dispute resolution.  Can computers be used to facilitate more effective ways to resolve conflict?  Perhaps so.

This issue engages in some interesting, and perhaps intimidating discussions regarding the influence technology may have and is having already on the way that we do what we do as lawyers.  Will technology reduce the public "need" for lawyers?  Maybe, maybe not.

Should we be afraid?  Are lawyers at risk of being replaced by machines?  My advice in this regard is – "ignorance is not bliss".  Read and be aware of changes coming and changes already here.  To use the above mentioned analogy, explorers Magellan and Cook would hardly ignore GPS and sonar/radar technology if it was available to them in their day – as lawyers, we may be just as fool-hardy in ignoring the growing world of legal technology available to us now.

Download this issue in PDF format.