It comes as no surprise that anything that can be automated physically or intellectually is being automated. The legal field is no exception. When you consider that attorneys don’t come cheap, most of us would agree that anything that improves their efficiency is a very good thing. Jason Koebler summarizes how artificial intelligence has already been changing the legal profession (“Rise of the Robolawyers: How Legal Representation Could Come to Resemble TurboTax” The Atlantic. April 2017, pp. 26–27):
“For years, artificial intelligence has been automating tasks—like combing through mountains of legal documents and highlighting keywords—that were once rites of passage for junior attorneys. The bots may soon function as quasi-employees. In the past year, more than 10 major law firms have ‘hired’ Ross, a robotic attorney powered in part by IBM’s Watson artificial intelligence, to perform legal research. Ross is designed to approximate the experience of working with a human lawyer: It can understand questions asked in normal English and provide specific, analytic answers.” (p. 26)
Given litigation’s patterns and statistics, algorithms’ powers, and increasingly sophisticated coding, the robo-lawyer might well be able to handle most civil cases except for the highly complex ones. So what’s robo-next? Robo-doctors, robo-architects, robo-engineers, robo-therapists, robo-waiters, robot-hairdressers, robo-plumbers, robo-writers? And how much will people tolerate concerning the customer experience? Even a canned response that makes logical sense or is technically correct sometimes just feels sterile and unsatisfying.
Just because you can do something via robot does not automatically mean it is always the best idea. When is a customer experience that only involves one human better than a customer experience that involves two humans? Does it truly matter?
Well, as you can see, I have my doubts. But then again, if I have doubts, then that really wouldn’t make much sense now would it? Listen, James Meadows will be back next week. Just do me a favor and please don’t tell him that I wrote his blog post today. He might not appreciate that.