Time to apply artificial intelligence
Daniel Martin Katz has some good news: five years from now, when artificial intelligence and technology have even greater roles in the business of law, he believes there will still be a role for lawyers. But what sort of role? The answer to that question is subject to many variables, but Professor Katz will be outlining some of the possibilities today at a conference hosted by the NSW Law Society on the future of law and innovation in the profession.
Professor Katz, who is a keynote speaker at the conference, is an editor of the International Journal of Law and Information Technology and is on the editorial board of the Journal of Artificial Intelligence & Law.
He is based at the Chicago Kent College of Law at the Illinois Institute of Technology, where he is director of Law Lab.
Unlike some, Professor Katz believes artificial intelligence does not amount to an existential threat to the legal profession. But he does believe the way lawyers work will be very different in just a few years.
At the moment, most lawyers see themselves as service providers, but according to Professor Katz, the big shift will be something he describes as the “productisation” of law.
He describes “productisation” as the trend in which law firms bundle products and legal services in a way that makes law firms resemble other parts of the business world.
He believes this is having an impact on what he refers to as “the industrial organisation” of the profession. “In practically every legal market in the world, we have seen material increases in what might be called legal innovation — which is not just technology,” he said.
And he believes the pace of change in the market for legal services is accelerating.
“It’s not one single thing. It’s a confluence of different factors from outsourcing, to process improvement, to technology design that bring different approaches to the work people are doing,” Professor Katz said.
While lawyers have a direct interest in the coming changes, he is more interested in what they will mean for clients.
“It will be fine if it improves the world for lawyers, but I think it’s more important if it improves it for everybody else,” he said.
“Whether that means we have more or fewer lawyers is something that is not too great an in- terest to me, it is more like, ‘do we solve the problems for which lawyers and the law are the solution, apparently’?”
Today’s conference is the latest in a series of moves aimed at preparing the profession for what some are referring to as the next industrial revolution.
KPMG Law and King & Wood Mallesons have jointly financed a professorial chair at the University of NSW that focuses on disruptive innovation in law. Late last year UNSW also established the Allens Hub for Technology, Law and Innovation with backing from Allens and the NSW Law Society.
Professor Katz hopes the changes will be accompanied by a structural evolution of the profession that will give law firms a more corporatised appearance.
“It won’t be totally unrecognisable, but it will look more like a big four accounting firm and less like a traditional law firm,” he says. “But in my view it will still represent a pretty material difference to what we have today.”
Professor Katz believes law firms will increasingly offer associated services and will eventually “meet in the middle” with accountants. He believes legal technology and financial technology are also “on a collision course” because of their similarities.
Daniel Martin Katz ... a big shift to ‘productisation’