As technology is becoming more advanced with the introduction of smartphone apps providing a wide variety of services, how long will it be before you can get legal advice from your smartphone? It may be closer than you think.
In 2016 a second-year student at Stanford University created “the world’s first robot lawyer”, called DoNotPay, which has helped to overturn over 160,000 parking tickets. The creator of DoNotPay, Joshua Browder, told Venturebeat.com that he is also going to use the programme to help people with HIV understand their legal rights and to collect compensation for people whose flights were delayed beyond four hours.
Although at an early stage, the advancement of technology into the legal sector is evident. There are a number of examples, including NextLaw Labs – a global collaborative group focused on developing new technologies to transform the practice of law around the world.
One start-up that has been helped by Next Law Labs is Ross Intelligence. Ross Intelligence has developed an artificial researcher, which uses a legal databases, such as Westlaw and LexisNexis, to find information based on questions that you can input into the programme. This may significantly reduce a client’s bill. If the artificial intelligence is doing most of the research then the solicitor doesn’t have to – less time spent leads to lower bills for the client.
Many other areas are being heavily influenced by technology – take self-service apps for the taxi industry, for example. So the case for a cheaper way of accessing legal information is understandable. The legal sector has historically been seen as a very high end area of expertise, and therefore the price reflects the amount of work and skill that goes into the job.
The question then is: should there be an influx of artificial intelligence which is capable of doing a majority of the preliminary research needed for a case. And where do the trainees fit into any new system?
One of the main jobs a trainee will do is to draft documents and undertake research to be passed onto a supervisor. Should the use of artificial intelligence increase, and these jobs taken by artificial researchers, the need for trainees may slow down somewhat. The legal profession is already very competitive – the Law Society reported that from August 2013 to July 2014, there were only 5,001 training contracts available, for the 16,116 students who graduated with a law degree during the same period.
The need for trainees will always be essential to a large and expanding law firm, however as a law firm is a business, smaller firms may see it as more cost effective to use artificial researchers rather than hire trainees in the future. It will be interesting to see how this develops. Of course, there is still a need for a personal approach to tailor the services to the client’s business, so it is unlikely that we will see practicing robot lawyers any time soon.
This blog post was written by Reece Trammer. Reece is a final year student studying at Northumbria University in a business firm in the Student Law Office. Upon graduating, he will be looking for a Training Contract or Paralegal work in a commercial law firm. His interests outside of law include football, rugby and snooker.