In my final year of Law School I did a Practical Legal studies course, it is compulsory at the University that I attended and students are required to pass it to be able to graduate. The course entails working as a trainee Attorney under the supervision of an experienced Attorney at the Universities’ Law Clinic; which provides free legal services for indigent people, the poorest of the poor. This particular Law clinic is the oldest and largest law clinic in the country, I had the privilege of being trained by some of the countries’ best and most experienced Lawyers. That said however, the year I spent there made me abhor conventional legal practice and all its instruments. Students are broken up into pairs, my partner and I were initially given five cases, some of which had already been there for years, we inherited them from previous students and their supervising attorneys. Ultimately my partner and I would bequeath some of our very own cases to the students coming to work there the next year and the cycle would repeat itself. As the year progressed we took on a few new cases of our own and by the second semester we had nine in total. I loved consulting with clients, my partner and I enjoyed coming up with solutions that made their faces light up. When that was said and done, we became what most Attorneys are, “glorified scribes”, “paper pushers”... the part that the producers of the best Legal Drama’s leave out. The time-consuming, exhaustive and iterative tasks were stifling creativity and innovation. The endless drafting and insurmountable case-load was hemorrhaging meaningful productivity and mental sharpness but most importantly the quality of legal services to our clients. This narrative of cumbersome legal practice is not peculiar to Law Clinics; it is ubiquitous in all spheres of legal practice in both the public and private sectors. Case back-logs, understaffed departments with sometimes tight budgets, overworked and sometimes under-paid Lawyers are increasingly alienating technologically adept clients.
The inherent inefficiencies of law will result in the proliferation of Data Science in Law in the form of the Algorithmic Lawyer. It will happen just as the inefficacies of the taxi industry ushered in the meteoric rise of Uber. Uber epitomizes disruptive innovation introduced to a field that grew too comfortable in its business model, much like the relative comfortability that the field of law finds itself in now. The ease with which Uber uprooted the status quo in public transportation with a very simple but novel idea was ingenious, some might even say cruel. Conventional legal practice harbors the kind of technological ineptitude that makes it unsustainable, especially in a generation of people looking to technology to better their lives. Clients will find that the Algorithmic Lawyer formulates the kind of mechanized processes that are unimaginable in conventional legal practice. Eventually, legal processes that cannot assume this mechanized form will become increasingly archaic, out of touch and unattractive in the minds of clients. There is an innate quality in every consumer to demand the very best at the very best price, not below par service at an extortionate fee and at a huge inconvenience; it is this quality that gave rise to Uber’s success. Society as a whole is yearning for a Legal Uber, something that will do for Legal services what Uber did for public transportation. They want Legal services that are convenient, affordable and most importantly at the forefront of cutting edge technology.
I’m afraid Legal Practitioners no longer have the luxury of skepticism, because whether or not technological advances will be adapted in law or not is unfortunately not up to lawyers, it is up to their clients. They are growing more and more restless and tired with their commercial interests and transactions operating solely within the limited confines of traditional law, even though innovative alternatives exist.
I don’t think lawyers fully appreciate the impending disruptiveness of legal innovation in the form of Data Analytics quiet enough. So in the briefest and simplest way allow me to loosely outline its magnitude: The fact that an algorithmic lawyer can draft pleadings in seconds instead of hours is disruptive, the fact that he can predict the arguments of his opponent is disruptive, the fact that he can scientifically augment his chances of success and diminish yours is disruptive, the fact that he can practice in a field of law he knows nothing about and still be competitive is disruptive, the fact that he can practice multiple and unrelated areas of law in mere hours is for a myriad of clients is disruptive; his productivity is akin to that of a factory assembly line, the fact that he uses Algorithms that simulate trials to calculate hundreds of ways to either win a case or a formulate a commercial fix is disruptive, finally the jugular; the fact that he spends less time on a matter means that he will charge his client much less, despite the fact that he has magnified the scope and quality of ordinary legal services ten-fold. Advanced Pattern Recognition, Decision Science, Artificial Intelligence, these are concepts that are tragically foreign to traditional Lawyers. If you provide Analytic services to a very weak Lawyer (and there are many), he becomes a highly competent one, equally if you provide Analytic services to a highly competent Lawyer he will become the very best.
Allow me to quell any fears amongst lawyers of learning math or an entirely new scientific field. Being an Algorithmic Lawyer simply means that you make use of Data Analytics in your practice, you don’t “do” Data Analytics. You simply have to make use of the technology that enables you to practice algorithmic law by securing affordable Analytic services from a company that specializes in Legal Analytics. Preferably an Analytics firm made up of other Lawyers, that way they have an intuitive understanding of the inner workings and intricacies of legal practice and they can gently guide you into much needed technological reform. Legal technology is providing simple, easy to use tools that allow any Lawyer to become an Algorithmic one, don’t allow the “Legal Uber” make you an obsolete Lawyer.