Will expert systems disrupt the legal value chain?


In the first installment of this book review series on AI (Post 232), I argued that AI will not reduce employment in the legal sector, and in fact, the extensive deployment of AI tools might well increase total legal employment significantly. In the second installment (Post 237), I reviewed a children’s board book, considered weaponized ostriches, and concluded that AI tools are powerful complements to human lawyers but will not soon replace many – or perhaps any – of them.

In both pieces, the point is that AI – while very cool and very powerful – is also just a labor-saving device like anything else.  AI should extend the reach of legal services to a broader audience, and there is little to suggest that AI will reduce employment in the legal sector overall.

This is not to say that AI will leave the legal market’s very settled pecking orders undisturbed.  AI turns a service into a product, and that can have powerfully disruptive effects in an industry.
Continue Reading “My new Volvo is a Mazda”: Part III of book review series on AI in law (250)


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)


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)


For frustrated legal innovators, one of the missing pieces might be found in this new book on trust.


Todd Henderson and Salen Churi, two law professors, have written a deep analysis of trust — its cultural history, social mechanics, economic elements, and of course how it relates to law and regulation.  As they put it, the goal of the book is “to establish trust as a lingua franca for discussion of issues that are often thought of as discreetly political but actually needn’t be” (p. xvi).

The inspiration for their effort was Uber, which I will discuss a little more in a minute.  But while the book covers a great deal of ground — from securities regulation to dinner parties to the Hanseatic League — it does not pause to unpack the implications for lawyers themselves.  I’d like to do a little of that below, because the margins of my copy of The Trust Revolution are full of graffiti on that topic.
Continue Reading The Trust Revolution (book review) (130)


Culture. Character. Practices. Systems.


When it comes to empirical research on lawyers, we’re all lightweights compared to Randall Kiser.  Over the last decade, Kiser has authored books on lawyer decision making in the context of litigation, Beyond Right and Wrong (2010), the mindset and work habits of trial lawyers who consistently outperform their peers, How Leading Lawyers Think (2011), and an empirically grounded analysis of the skills and behaviors needed to build a successful legal career, Soft Skills for the Effective Lawyer (2017).
Continue Reading American Law Firms in Transition: Trends, Threats, and Strategies (book review) (110)


As a sixth grader at Ridgebury Elementary, I completed my math and language homework using a workbook. In junior high, I moved on to textbooks, anthologies, and primary sources. Now, nearly 40 years later, I find myself returning to a workbook to learn leadership, an elusive skill set for many in the professional class.
Continue Reading Choosing Leadership: A Workbook (097)

Glass Half Full: The Decline and Rebirth of the Legal Profession
Benjamin H. Barton, Helen and Charles Lockett Distinguished Professor of Law at University of Tennessee-Knoxville College of Law.
New York: Oxford University Press, 2015. 305 pp. ISBN: 978-0-19-020556-0.

The laws of supply and demand have finally caught up with the modern U.S. legal profession,