Podcast #4: Ed Walters on the Law of Robots

This week Aaron and I cover non-lawyer ownership, non lawyers, and access to justice. Also — GOOD NEWS! — We also learn that every lawyer should be bringing in at least $200,000 because statistics.

For the interview, Fastcase CEO Ed Walters and I talk about law and robots, which will not necessarily help you get your $200,000, but is a pretty interesting discussion of the law of robots and the role artificial intelligence may play in the future of law.

Why Do PI Lawyers Hate Non-Lawyer Ownership?

Do alternative business structures actually increase access to justice when it comes to personal injury? This article from the Law Times discussion personal injury lawyers’ opposition to non-lawyer ownersip comes from Canada, but seems relevant to the US legal industry.

Should Non-Lawyers Practice Law?

In a post on LawSites, Bob Ambrogi took a look at the arguments for and against non-lawyer practitioners made on Above the Law, including Shannon Achimalbe’s argument that clients who fall into the gap probably don’t deserve lawyers, anyway, or something to that effect.

Here’s Your Windfall

Lawyers who are considering starting their own firm frequently want to know how much they can expect to make. Well, now you have an answer. If you add up the legal market and divide the dollars by the number of solo and small-firm lawyers, it looks like you can expect to make a bit more than $200,000 a year.


(h/t Business of Law Blog)


Interview: Ed Walters

Last semester, Ed taught the “Law of Robots” course at Georgetown Law, and because I’ve always enjoyed Ed’s thoughts on technology’s influence on the future of law (see my “Will Computers Become Better Lawyers Than Humans?” article, for example), I used that as an excuse to talk about robots and the future of law.

First, we talked about the law of robots. Robots are already here in the form of drones and self-driving cars, and they are raising legal issues like which of two possible people it should avoid in a no-win traffic accident situation.

Then, we talked about the role computers may play in law practice. When you consider Moore’s Law, it’s hard to imagine computers not doing some legal work in the near future. Students in Toronto are already trying to put IBM’s Watson to work doing legal research, and that is surely just the tip of the iceberg.

Ed and I explored some of the roles computers may play — not all of which endanger lawyers’ jobs. In fact, some of the roles computers may play could actually make law practice a lot more rewarding.

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1 Comment

  1. Avatar Alex says:

    Great podcast! I really enjoyed the discussion of robots, AI (although it’s a flawed term) and the future of lawyering.

    I wish Ed had taken the discussion of AI displacing lawyers a little more seriously. Yes technological change has not generally caused mass unemployment–improvements in agricultural productivity allowed farmers to become factory workers; improvements in manufacturing led a slice of of factory workers to become knowledge workers; improvements in AI, will lead knowledge workers to become what, exactly?

    Just saying we don’t know, but will figure it out, because that’s what happened in the past is too pat when we’re talking about improvements in computing continuing at the exponential rate of Moore’s law.

    If Watson currently has the processing power of 1/100,000 of the human brain, but will have the processing power of 1 human brain in 2028, and 2 human brains 18 months later, then we’re entering new territory. Past experience may not be indicative of future results, where the tech is that good.

    Please look at the work of MIT economists Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee.
    http://www.secondmachineage.com/ Also, Tyler Cowen’s Average is Over raises some concerns.

    We could be in an Instagram v Eastman Kodak type situation where 15 employees generate a billion dollars in value while a fortune 500 company goes bankrupt.

    It’s an interesting time to practice. I’m not as worried as this comment makes me sound (lawyers are always grumbling about competition, whether it’s from new lawyers, non-lawyers or whomever) but I’d love to hear from someone equally as accomplished as Ed, but looking at the other side of the argument more closely.

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