Law is one of the world’s oldest and most well-respected professions. Its legacy extends back hundreds of years and due to the enormous amount of education, work, and dedication required to become an effective practitioner, a position at a tried-and-tested legal firm is one of modern society’s most stereotypical status symbols. But new technologies are coming – or have come already – that aim to change the world, and the legal industry will be forced to adapt. The conversation about the changes underway in the world of law is already underway, but some technologies look to be more significant than others.
Inevitably, the first industry on people’s lips when self-driving cars come up is transportation. Full-time truck drivers and package and post delivery drivers are alleged to be particularly vulnerable, but somewhat less frequently mentioned is how automated cars will affect the way traffic violations and accidents are litigated. Car accidents are a major subset of personal injury law, a broad canopy under which many lawyers make a living. It’s tempting to think that without drivers to hold accountable, there can be no lawsuits or paychecks, but that’s not necessarily true, although the landscape will change. Forward-thinking firms like Seattle’s Davis Law Group are optimistic about their ability to help their clients navigate an unfamiliar landscape, where many of the defendants will likely be larger tech companies.
The use of genetics in the legal system is a relatively new phenomenon; even the forensic science of fingerprinting is surprisingly recent. Non-profit groups like the Innocence Project make headlines by lobbying for the application of new DNA evidence to exonerate criminals believed to have been wrongly convicted. But the newest development is a sort of Facebook of genetic data, a growing collection of information submitted by people for ancestry tests and entertainment value that police are now accessing in order to try and incriminate family members who may be suspects in a criminal investigation.
Automation won’t replace lawyers, but it will replace a lot of the work that they – and especially paralegals and assistants – do on a regular basis. Two things are likely: First, the adoption of software that automates the more menial and mechanical aspects of legal work will become necessary for success in a competitive marketplace, and it will significantly change how legal professionals bill their hours and what kind of work they focus on. Second, the firms that truly excel will be the ones who use advanced technology creatively, to help predict odds in trial cases and parse relevant case information.
Home Assistants and the internet of things
This is a technology that’s already here, but as the biggest technology companies engage in mortal combat for custody of our personal data, the portable and in-home devices they use to collect it will become a new variable lawyers will have to contend with as they work to protect their clients’ confidentiality and manage control over their cases. The possibility that the unassuming little robot might suddenly decide to send privileged conversations to randomly-selected third parties is an unfortunate reality that tomorrow’s attorneys will have to deal with.