I often focus on the change in the legal profession, and how education should mirror that. One question I don’t give nearly as much attention to is whether this change is a “healthy social development.”
At the Legal Ethics Forum, Dan Katz contributes to a symposium about Quantitative Legal Prediction. Dan and I agree on a lot of things. We spent an hour yesterday talking about possible collaborations in the near future. Though, I disagree with his responses in the comment thread.
I think the question was a fair one. All too often I get caught up in saying what will be, I don’t stop to smell the roses and wonder whether it is a good thing. Dan is probably right that this change is inevitable, and will happen whether or not luddites want it to.
But, you get more flies with honey than vinegar (or, to paraphrase a Simpsons classic, you don’t win friends with salad!) Taking on the ethical and normative implications of replacing what has traditionally been a human-driven profession with computer-driven components is a big culture shock. Even if the change increases access to justice, lowers costs of legal services, and makes some things better, other things will be worse–and I’m not just talking about putting lawyers out of work.
One consequence that I fear of my work, is that by gaining a deeper understanding of the law, more people will learn things that will raise questions about the legitimacy of the courts. Sure, it is easy to say the Supreme Court is political. They decide cases we all know about. But what about detailed data about how the judges in the inferior courts decide cases? Do we really want to know these things?
Further, do we really want to hand over to machines the development of the law. I’ve written elsewhere about the potential ossification of the law. What about threats from a company designing algorithms controlling the development of the law. Capture could be particularly difficult to catch. Think of Google’s algorithm. A slight tweak in one direction can change what information we learn. What if similar algorithms were used for legal services.
So, just say’n, I’m cognizant of these risks. I will try not to be dismissive of these concerns, and hopefully come up with answers to these questions.
You write that “this is no longer a humanities age (and, correspondingly, argue that law schools should adopt a technological, quantitative analytic and, I gather, commercial orientation about themselves). In your opinion, is this a healthy social development?
Posted by: Rakesh K. Anand | February 07, 2012 at 01:05 PM
That is a normative question (typical law school move is to try to turn everything into a normative argument BTW). It is not actually relevant whether it is a healthy social development – what is relevant is that it is happening.
I am for the students and helping my students get the skills they need to survive (thrive) in this new ordering. In order to this I cannot be myopic about what is happening within our industry. Instead, I feel an obligation to determine (to the best of my ability) what is happening and how best to respond. My comments above are directed at this goal.
Posted by: Daniel Katz | February 07, 2012 at 03:30 PM
I think it compelling that you feel an obligation to determine what is happening and how best to respond. But isn’t “how best to respond” a normative question?
As for the irrelevancy of the health of society — I’m not sure how that is a “myopic” point of view — I would hope that really isn’t your position.
Posted by: Rakesh K. Anand | February 07, 2012 at 05:51 PM
No it is not normative – while errors are possible there is a set of information (labor market data, BLS forecasts, surveys of industry leaders (general counsels roundtable), offerings at LegalTech, etc.) about what is going on in our industry as well as additional well reasoned forecasts about where this is industry is likely heading.
Your argument is that we should NOT ALIGN the training of our students with the demands of the labor market. Again, my post above is a set of good faith responses in light of that information where I try to work through how to align the training of our students with the good faith projection of the demands of the labor market.
I am sure you mean well but your post (as well as your comments here) read like you really do not understand the current depth of the problem. If you did – you would write something that is more responsive to the problem – you know – The Economic Realities Facing the Profession.
Posted by: Daniel Katz | February 07, 2012 at 08:48 PM
Your position is that we should align the training of our students with the demands of the labor market, and do so in an acute way. That is a normative position, and one that is open to question. Hence my original post. Additionally, in terms of how to respond to what is happening, you might ask yourself whether a healthy society is in the interests of our students.
As for not understanding the depth of the problem, I don’t claim to be a wholesale expert in the field. But, I do know that I have something to offer the discussion. And, I will note that I did practice law for several years.
I intended my question as a sincere and serious one, in the hope of beginning a constructive dialogue. Unfortunately, we are unable to have that discussion.
Posted by: Rakesh K. Anand | February 07, 2012 at 10:01 PM
Hey – lets just agree to disagree – 🙂
I will continue with trying to help position my students in the best way I can for success in a rapidly changing profession and you can pursue whatever approach you consider to be appropriate.
Posted by: Daniel Katz | February 07, 2012 at 10:28 PM
Sure. I did think your piece was thought-provoking. Perhaps we will have a chance to engage a dialogue in the future.