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The JD vs. The PC
The Legal Eagle as Endangered Species

The high-priced, hard-hitting attorney that everyone loves to hate may soon be replaced by an affectless screen. Information technology is poised to transfigure the legal profession and wipe out quite a few jobs in the process, writes John O. McGinnis in City Journal.

Computers already perform keyword searches faster and more accurately than humans, which means law firms are less reliant on worker bees for document review. Soon, machine intelligence may advance to the point where computers can recognize and search for concepts, instead of only exact terms. And those piles and piles of legal forms could soon be computer-generated—at least as rough drafts, to be lightly customized later.

Which lawyers will survive the trial by technology? McGinnis predicts:

A relatively small number of very talented lawyers will benefit from the coming changes. These superstars will prosper by using the new technology to extend their reach and influence. For instance, the best lawyers will need fewer associates; they can use computers to enhance the value that they offer their clients. […]

The biggest winners may be lawyers who can use machine intelligence to create an automated large-scale practice. The Walton family, it’s worth recalling, got rich by effectively automating large-scale retail. More generally, there may be jobs for a new category of engineer-lawyers—those who can program machines to create legal value.

But the large number of journeyman lawyers—such as those who do routine wills, vet house closings, write standard contracts, or review documents on a contractual basis—face a bleak future. They will have far less to contribute to legal analysis, and they will face relentless evaluation from clients using new data-driven metrics.

We suggest you read the whole thing, for a great preview of the disruptions coming to the legal ecosystem. Lawyers may fight dirty, but in a battle between the PC and the JD, which one would you bet on?

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  • Arkeygeezer

    John O. McGinnis in City Journal bases his piece on a faulty premise, “Law is, in effect, an information technology—a code that regulates social life.”

    A Lawyer uses the information to advocate for his client and to persuade another party or a Judge of his client’s just cause. Technology has changed the nature of the legal profession by freeing up the lawyer to do what he or she does best —advocate!

    As long as humans disagree and do dumb things, there will be business for Lawyers. Its better than being an Undertaker; we get repeat business!

  • Fat_Man

    Q: What do your call skydiving lawyers?

    A: Skeet.

    Q: What are 100 dead lawyers on the bottom of the ocean?

    A: A good start.

    • Arkeygeezer

      The next time you land in jail, call a comedian,

      You have Lawyer jokes, we have client jokes. Ours are funnier and they are all true.

      • Corlyss

        Got any more, Arkey? Please post them.

    • Corlyss

      More! More!

      • Arkeygeezer

        We can’t tell client jokes. The straight-laced Board of Professional Responsibility won’t let us.

        • Corlyss

          You don’t have to use names! Geez Louise!

  • Fat_Man

    Don’t worry Arkey, if I need a shyster, I’ll call you.

    • Arkeygeezer

      Naaahh, call your I.T. person….. or maybe your laptop!

  • Guest

    Law school out, nursing school in?

    • Corlyss

      Nope, because both fields are dominated by women now. STEM is the way to go.

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