Saturday, May 14, 2016

A Better Mousetrap?

So you go to work just to watch some jerk
Pick up the perks you were in line to get.
And the guy that hired you just got fired,
Your job's expired, they just ain't told you yet.
- John Hiatt

If you are one of the thousands of young men and women in these United States (including my kick-ass niece Simone) who (a) is currently enrolled in an accredited law school; or (b) has just earned your J.D., and is planning to spend the first two-thirds of your summer studying for the Bar Exam, before setting out to make your mark in the legal profession, then news that broke this week is something to which you might want to pay more than a mere modicum of attention.  

BakerHostetler, which is one of this nation's largest law firms and has been in the business of law for one hundred years,  announced this week that it shall be the first law firm to license an Artificial Intelligence product to perform legal research.  According to this story, the firm shall license ROSS Intelligence in its bankruptcy practice.  ROSS Intelligence utilizes IBM's Watson technology and is designed to get smarter as it gets used.  Andrew Arruda, a co-founder of ROSS, has described it as, "the world's first artificially intelligent attorney.  ROSS is trained to read the law, understand the type of questions that lawyers might ask one another, and get smarter the more lawyers use it." 

Up until learning of its existence, I had spent two decades-plus believing that I am the world's first artificially intelligent attorney.  Who know that - in this instance at least - faux and artificial have dissimilar meanings? 

Cheer up, young barristers.  Regardless of how much smarter ROSS is than you are - and he is - there are certain voids that grizzled, veteran, senior lawyers revel in making young associates fill that ROSS will never be able to perform as well as you.  He is after all still just a machine.  So, he cannot swing a softball bat or shoot a basketball, which means that he can never surpass your contribution to your firm's Summer League softball team or its Winter League hoops team.  Neither can he express dismay, anger, rage, or despair when being told at 5:14 PM on a Friday afternoon that his weekend plans need to be cancelled because this "urgent" (legalese for "has been on my desk for some time and I have had no goddamn idea what to do with it") project must be completed in time for a 10:00 AM conference call Monday with the client.  

Of course, just to be ever vigilant in the area of self-preservation, spilling a bottle of water on him or unplugging him every now and again might not be a bad action plan.  Think of it as a "belt and suspenders" approach. 

And if all else fails, you can always take Mr. Hiatt's advice.  Take the afternoon off in order to go and buy yourself a brand new set of wheels...


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