Now it’s Instapundit saying, in a column posted at USA Today, that automation is going to replace lawyers. The only concrete example he mentions, however, other than citing a book by another law professor, is a web site that I already pointed out has little potential impact.
He may well be right that automation will make legal information available to people who couldn’t get it otherwise. Far be it from me to question the logic of the Instapundit, but I can’t help asking: if automation is mostly going to benefit people who can’t afford lawyers now, how is that going to hurt lawyers?
A FREE SO-CALLED ROBOT LAWYER CAN HELP YOU “TACKLE LEGAL ISSUES,” BUT IS THE SERVICE WORTH ANY MORE THAN WHAT YOU PAY FOR IT?
Anything that helps people find information about their legal problems is fine with me. But equating an internet search engine with a lawyer is like calling the robotic arms on a garbage truck (you know, the ones that pick up the can, dump it in the truck, and put it back down) a surgeon.
People who obviously have their own motives keep coming up with these technologies and claiming that their ideas will, eventually, replace lawyers. I think the obvious comparison to the practice of medicine demonstrates the absurdity of those claims. When you’re ready to have a robot do your brain surgery, let me know.
Whatever you think of the President’s decision to withdraw the Unites States from the Paris Accord, it’s unbelievable to me that a professor of American studies at Harvard would (a) equate it with the Treaty of Paris in 1783 (Article 2, Section 2 of the Constitution says the President can’t enter into a treaty without the consent of the Senate), and worse, (b) assert that the Treaty of Paris “created” the United States (the Treaty of Paris was a bilateral treaty that formally ended the Revolutionary War).
At least the professor provided an opportunity for this history lesson.
A post at the Cato Institute blog asks, why is insider trading illegal? It tells the story of what sounds like insider trading at its most benign: a former star ballplayer who just happened to find out from his CEO neighbor that the neighbor’s firm was about to be acquired by a giant corporation. The ballplayer bought some of the stock, and told others to do the same. He profited handsomely when he later sold the stock.
I claim no expertise whatsoever in securities law. It’s a very complicated are, inhabited by specialists. I will never dabble in it. But I can tell you the easy answer to the question posed by that Cato blog post: because it’s cheating. It’s profiting through knowledge that isn’t available to you and me, only to those whose neighbors happen to be CEOs.
The argument that it’s a case of “no harm, no foul” doesn’t cut it with me. If my team is stealing the opposing team’s signals, but we lose the game anyway, is the league going to let it slide? I don’t think so.
Maybe the Supreme Court confirmation process is something I shouldn’t comment on, because what I say could be taken as political commentary. I don’t think it is political commentary, though, except to the extent that it’s about politicians. Politicians who claim that they can discern a Supreme Court nominee’s bias in favor of one type of litigant over another based on particular opinions the nominee wrote as a judge, or particular clients the nominee represented as a lawyer, are perpetuating the misconception that judges decide cases (or should decide cases) based on which party the judge thinks is more deserving, or that lawyers represent clients because they agree with the clients’ views.
A judge’s job is to decide cases based on the law, not based on whether they think one party is more deserving than the other. If a correct application of the law means that the more sympathetic party loses, then the more sympathetic party should lose. Similarly, a lawyer’s job is to advocate for the client’s interests under the law, regardless of whether or not the lawyer’s personal interests are the same as the client’s. If the client’s legal interests are protected, then the lawyer has done his or her job.
They call the idea “hoteling.” I’m not sure I like the name, but the concept is intriguing. Some law firms are using it, I presume as a way to reduce office rent expense. Office rent is a major overhead item for law firms.
The idea is that if you have fewer than 100% of the lawyers in the office each day, why have a permanent individual office for each of them? Instead, you have a number of offices that corresponds to the maximum number of lawyers expected to be in the office each day, and make those offices interchangeable, so it doesn’t matter who uses which office on any given day.
The concept probably only works if you have a truly paperless office, with all documents stored in a central server and available on a linked computer terminal. I’m certainly not there yet, and perhaps never will be, but for some reason I find the concept attractive. Maybe someday.
It’s a blog post of a newspaper column originally published in 2000, but the advice is timeless:
1) Keep yourself out of court if humanly possible.
2) When appearing before a judge for any reason, “[i]f you have the option of either saying something or not saying something, whenever possible don’t say anything.”
A CONCEPT THAT ALL LAWYERS, AND ANYONE WHO IS REPRESENTED BY A LAWYER IN A DISPUTE, SHOULD KEEP IN MIND
It’s something I have believed for a long time:
I can assure all lawyers that assuming your client’s passionate position to the exclusion of reason and good judgment will detract from your client’s position (not enhance it).
As anyone who understands baseball stats will know, if you go 0-fer long enough, your batting average is never going to recover. You’ll never get back above the Mendoza line. That’s what I thought of when I saw this item on the home page of Lowering the Bar today:
At least temporary congratulations to the three former leaders of Dewey & LeBoeuf, following a mistrial today on no fewer 93 criminal charges. The jury has already acquitted them on 58 other charges that also arose from the bankruptcy and collapse of that ginormofirm, and today said it could not reach agreement on the remaining 93. Does that suggest it might have been overkill to prosecute them for 151 separate crimes? I do not know, but so far the prosecution is 0-151.
I know it’s inside baseball (if I may mix my metaphors), but I have been following the news about Dewey & LeBoeuf with some interest. Dewey & LeBoeuf was a very large law firm that went out of business a few years ago, leaving a huge amount of unpaid debt. Three of the executives of the firm (not all of whom were lawyers) ended up getting prosecuted for allegedly misleading the firm’s creditors.
I think the story is interesting to me mostly because it’s so far removed from my experience as a lawyer. I can’t get my head around the idea that a law firm would raise capital by selling bonds, as if it was General Motors or General Electric.
As for the prosecutors who went 0-for-151, will they get sent down to the minors?
Hat tip: TaxProf Blog.
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