About a year and a half ago, I announced in a firm-wide meeting that the future of law must incorporate some form of artificial intelligence, allowing for quicker and certainly more accurate research for clients. I had started developing the project six months prior. That morning was my big revelation.
I remember bounding into work so excited to share the news to the forty-plus Rose Law Group team members. I enthusiastically announced that we were in the process of developing a robot lawyer, who would make our research about 100 times quicker than a human, with a less than 1 percent chance of being in any way inaccurate. I thought they would share my over exuberance, however, I received shocked expressions.
I very quickly realized that their looks ranged from “she sounds insane” to “if she actually does it, do I have a job?” followed by “If she really does it, like makes it big, do any of us have any job anywhere? Is lawyering dead?” I immediately explained that their legal jobs were secure. The robot lawyer would be doing the research, spitting out pros and cons of various courses of action, but the lawyer would still be crucial to providing good advice and judgement to the client.
I said it would essentially be like having a dream associate, who never makes an error – ever. An associate who gets you the answer within minutes, not days. There was still some marked unease, but I think most thought “I had a pipe dream of a crazy person” and walked away happy.
I am entirely convinced that to provide an even better client service that the robot lawyer needs to be the future. They don’t sleep. They process information in seconds rather than days. They don’t blow deadlines. They don’t make any errors.
I worked on this concept for about a year. I had bids from various programmers and other artificial intelligence developers. It seemed to me that Watson’s technology would get us closest to the end product the fastest. Ultimately I pushed a major pause on the project for a variety of pretty good business reasons.
I woke this morning to read that Baker & Hostetler has done it, launched a robot lawyer. It is very specific to a bankruptcy practice, having only expertise in that area, but here we are. In the present. My thoughts of the future of law shown to me in the form of IBM’s AI Ross now employed by Baker & Hostetler. I am actually tormented today by this. I like to get there first. I am quite certain that the practice of law as it is today is not how it should be with all the technological tools that we have—and are not using.
What I know is this. It’s time to open the tool box. We identified the need for an AI, are still at work on it and when we feel comfortable with the robot lawyer, it will launch for the benefit of our clients.
My favorite quote is from Wayne Gretzky “I see the puck before it hits the stick”. In this case we saw it, but are waiting for the right time to go for the goal.