It’s Machine + Lawyers. Not Machine v. Lawyers

July 6th, 2014

Northwestern Dean Dan Rodgriguez has a thoughtful post, based on Frank Pasquale’s intriguing discussion about the “machine v lawyers” debate.

That all said, even the more nuanced view he describes does point to the key role of legal curricula and law teaching to help our law students understand where automation can intersect with human activity — that is where the calculus is “machine + lawyers” rather than “machines v. lawyers.”  And, indeed, the courses Frank and a small cadre of other expert lawyers teach at their respective law schools respond to this need well.

My only small contribution here is this:  Law schools would do well to formulate curriculur strategies that explore in this “more nuanced” way the dynamics and dimensions of automation and its impact on legal services.  The objective is not to convince our students that the sky is falling.  Rather, the objective is to help them understand how best to use the products and processes developed through automation and (especially) the contributions of big data in order to prosper as lawyers and to assist clients.

I have been making this point for some time. I refer to the role of technology as assisted decision making. Lawyers, aided by this technology, will be helping to make decisions. We should teach law students how to use, and indeed develop these innovative tools. There will be disruption, but it will improve the way attorneys can offer services.