Examining the gap between what machines do and what lawyers do.


A shiver of lawyers reading books is, perhaps, like a school of fish swimming: the fish don’t know the water is wet, and likewise, the lawyers, who may deeply consider what they are reading, will rarely stop to consider what reading is. But because reading is so important to the law, and one of the key capabilities of artificial intelligence (AI) is its growing ability to work with text, it’s worth a moment to pause and consider: what are we doing when we read?
Continue Reading Did Robbie the Robot really learn to read? (book review) (237)


An early example of where things are headed.


In Post 228, Paula Doyle, Chief Legal Innovation Officer at the World Commerce and Contracting Association (WorldCC), made the claim that inefficiencies in the current commercial contracting process likely cost the global economy more than $1 trillion annually. We reach this figure by adding up the massive second-order effects caused by excessive contract complexity and poor process:
Continue Reading Case study: impact of AI and Big Data on low-risk contract negotiations (236)

Photo by Maarten van den Heuvel on Unsplash

For the legal industry, the answer is likely “now.”


Lawyers love the expression “better, faster, cheaper—pick two.”  But what happens when there is a change in the state of the art such that gains in all three are possible and the only constraint is a workforce with the requisite state-of-the-art skills?
Continue Reading When is a generational strategy the best strategy? (235)


Going long on our professional relationships.


Like many things in the world, the one-two punch of automation and the pandemic have vastly altered the landscape of professional networking.  To a great extent, building relationships in the clubhouse after a glorious afternoon on the links or while sipping a Woodford while awaiting your grilled branzino has been replaced, at least temporarily, with the likes of Zoom, Microsoft Teams and, of course, the business networking platform LinkedIn.

Some in the legal industry may welcome this sudden and stark shift, while other wish we could return to the ways things worked pre-pandemic. Alas, with COVID getting under control, we are finally in a position to construct a new normal that includes a heightened appreciation for technology.
Continue Reading One legal professional’s systematic approach to LinkedIn (234)


Preliminary thoughts on our next paradigm.

In Post 231, I presented a crowded and chaotic market map as evidence that the legal industry is the early days of a revolution in which the center of gravity is shifting away from one-to-one consultative services toward a new model that includes legal products and services. Further, I suggested that the auto industry circa 1905 provides the best metaphor to convey the breadth and depth of the change that is coming our way.

Another fruitful lens for analyzing the tumult in the legal market is the Kuhn cycle (see above graphic), which is the leading framework for explaining large-scale changes in science. See Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (4th ed. 2012).
Continue Reading Does the Kuhn cycle apply to law? (233)


Lawyers are trained to be good at what machines can’t do.


Will the world still need lawyers once AI gets really good?

The short answer is yes—and I believe it will still be yes no matter how good AI gets.  My view is not universally accepted, so I will need to lay it out, and that will involve some claims about what humans are and whether a machine can ever be like that.  This will shed considerable light on what lawyers essentially do, and help us to see how machines can help us to be better lawyers.
Continue Reading Legal’s AI rocket ship will be manned (book review) (232)


A crowded, chaotic landscape in love with the future.


The opening graphs of Richard Susskind’s Tomorrow’s Lawyers (2nd ed. 2016) predict the revolution that is now underway:

This book is a short introduction to the future for young and aspiring lawyers.

Tomorrow’s legal world, as predicted and described here, bears little resemblance to that of the past. Legal institutions and lawyers are at a crossroads, I claim, and will change more radically in less than two decades than they have over the past two centuries. If you’re a young lawyer, this revolution will happen on your watch. (p. xvii)

Indeed, only a revolution could explain the above “market map,” which reflects literally hundreds of point solutions for a rapidly expanding one-to-many legal marketplace.
Continue Reading The best metaphor for today’s legal market is the auto industry circa 1905 (231)


In ways that are often self-interested and counterproductive.


Why do I keep banging on about inquiry (i.e., asking good questions rather than advocating an opinion or advice)?  Because it’s so important and we’re  so bad at it.

I still remember the first time I tracked dialogue in a group of lawyer-leaders.   I was working with


Every good writer strives to say something important with an economy of words.  On this score, today’s guest contributor, Anthony Kearns, sets a Legal Evolution record, relying upon a hand-drawn image and 300 words to say something profoundly important about how lawyers interact in groups, particularly with other lawyers. See Post 230.

Though


Count me among the skeptics.


We are all familiar with the allegations that CEOs of publicly traded companies manipulating their earnings from period to period by such actions as booking discretionary expenses at the end of a strong quarter or deferring a major sale until the beginning of a new period.  No one thinks that these actions are laudable from an integrity standpoint, and sometimes they are sufficiently flagrant to result in securities-fraud allegations.

Thus, it is surprising to me that law firm managers have been boasting in the first quarter of 2021 about their prudence in prepaying in the last quarter of 2020 major expenses that were not due until 2021.  See, e.g., Andrew Mahoney, “Big Firms Headed Off ‘Great Unknowns’ by Pre-Paying Bills,” Law.com, Mar. 10, 2021 (discussing prevalence of practice).
Continue Reading Is income manipulation by Big Law laudable behavior? (227)