Looking back over history the legal profession has been constantly evolving and the next big positive change we face as lawyers is that of technology.
The legal profession has traditionally been regarded as the font of all knowledge, the fixer of problems, the mediators and arbitrators of disputes, and that is still true to this day. Traditional values are the foundations we work from, and nothing will change there, whilst looking to develop, evolve and diversify as a business to move ahead into the future. By embracing the law and technology we have been able to recognise many opportunities over the years, and will continue to look and develop new skills and professionalisms, creating business opportunities that many ignore leaving us free to establish ourselves within those niches as leading professionals.
Look at technology and the internet, many business opportunities are now favouring those with a background and working knowledge of new technologies and processes – from cryptocurrency has come blockchain, from Virtual Reality (VR) we now have Augment Reality (AR).
The introduction of new technologies, such as Augmented Reality and Artificial Intelligence, are already beginning to impact on the work of more traditional lawyers, including online wills, one-touch conveyancing and smart contracts.
Businesses, and likewise clients, benefit tremendously from efficient, effective and economical solutions; for instance AI technology, even though in its early days, will no doubt reach a level that all you have to do is click a button and all legal documents are translated into layman’s terms. Certainly not in the next decade or so, but we could in some shape or form see the rise of machines with cases being led via computer software - not a far cry from robots going to court in suits.
Cloud development is one that has the furthest to go, especially with data and cyber security being key. With everything so easily stored and accessed from anywhere in the world - but data is still held on physical hard drives. These need accessible storage spaces on the ground and therefore remain prone to espionage and theft. But through the use of secure user access and remote automated airgap security, where there are no physical connections to the drives, a standard data security solution is in the wings.
Looking further to the future we could create an amalgam of the cloud and AI. This could mean that we end up with a unique, secure and well organised database that carries all clients’ information in the AI’s cloud, as opposed to the common filing systems we are used too. As a consequence, the AI could learn to tidy files, alert us to when there are omissions, and remind us when files need chasing or deleting. Each business could effectively end up with their own AI brain. Imagine a single sourced solution that as an ‘i-Advocate’ it could apply an analytical function that calculates all possible outcomes for a client, which in turn potentially comes up with the best legal solution. It may no longer be the coming together of great minds, but a battle of the legal AI systems. Consequently, it could be that all references to the law, administrative and other legal related work turn out to be redundant making the need for a true legal professional to become extinct.
Legal professionals will need to ensure that their profession is not infiltrated by other professions, as already mentioned, who look to dehumanise the processes and introduce globalisation as a standard, where understanding of the law on behalf of a client, and knowing that same client, no longer becomes part of the process.
Furthermore, some consolation can be taken into account that technology has no guarantees, there is still a margin for error – look at blockchain and Bitcoin, both thought to be hack-proof and secure – clearly where there is a will there is a way.
Similarly, the lack of being able to develop relationships with your clients is fine for when you are buying your groceries online, but when it comes to divorce or resolving disputes can you really trust a machine to do the right thing and leave it in control – just remember 2001.
There will always be a need for professional lawyers, who understand the details, people, their individuality, their personality and personal circumstances, which still need to be understood, clarified and taken into account. By analogy, two people may hear the same music score or see a blue dress, but may not hear the music in the same way or see blue as brown. AI has no feelings in the way that the data is interpreted, with no perception filters or through different eyes or ears. AI will only ever process the same data in the same way, it cannot replicate humanity, the human variable.
In 2030, we could see AI assisting in a super-clerk role, helping with the day-to-day legal administration, but the Law will always need the human element to interpret the case specifics of a matter.
Director Carly Stratton, who heads up Business & Gaming, sums up in 2030, “Professions are being upgraded across the world through technology and the personal touch is the global solution to remain human!”