The rule of law is a great boon to liberty, enabling us to plan our lives. Making law more transparent and less expensive to use also increases liberty because then more people can take advantage of that stability at lower cost. It is a particular boon to the poor and middle-class who cannot afford high-priced lawyers to help them see through a fog of law.
Fortunately, the ever increasing power of computation is creating new mechanisms to improve access to law. As I described in my presentation this week at the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, machine intelligence is transforming legal practice. It is making discovery of facts easier through predictive coding, permitting search by semantic concepts rather than just legal terms, generating simple but personally tailored legal documents, like wills and trusts, and helping predict the outcome of legal cases. Discovery, search, document generation, and legal prediction constitute a large part of legal practice.
The single most important structural change to accelerate such innovation is to permit non-lawyers and corporations to earn income from the practice of law—something that is forbidden by ethical rules in all our states.
It is daunting to be read by genuine scholars whom one admires. The thoughtful comments, elaborations, and criticism of Stephen Grosby, Charles J. Reid, and Dick Helmholtz have surely given the reader much more wisdom and provocation than did my essay. Despite the many truths of my commentators’ criticism, Liberty Law Forum and its editor Richard Reinsch have allowed me the last word. Last, that is, the last word not counting the engaging and astute commentary from other readers, which I hope will continue, below. Stephen Grosby fires the first salvo, calling me to task for burdening “the cultivated guild of the…
I am an admirer of Steve Sheppard and of his scholarship. His book on the ethical obligations of lawyers is not just as a reminder of the necessity for lawyers to comply with lawyerly standards. More than formal compliance with the canons of ethics is needed today. Serious consideration of the true moral purposes of…
With “Where did the Noble Lawyer Go?: Looking for Cicero in the Boardroom and on the Billboard,” Professor Stephen Sheppard has provided us with a provocative, as one expects from the editor of the three-volume Selected Works of Sir Edward Coke, rumination on the decline of the legal profession. He contrasts the lawyer of today…
I am fascinated with Stephen Sheppard's essay on Cicero and the modern American lawyer. In a sense, he is calling me back to those ideals I held so dear as an entering one-L a long time ago. Cicero, it is not too strong to say this, is one of the reasons I went to law school.…
Machines are coming to displace lawyers, and bar regulation will not stop them. The results will be good for consumers but mixed for lawyers. Superstars may be helped, but journeymen lawyers face a less favorable future.
Russ Pearce and I have detailed the present and future effects of machine intelligence in a just published article, The Great Disruption. In this post I will summarize the way machine intelligence is going to encroach on lawyers’ practices.
Machine intelligence is powered by Moore’s law—the doubling of computer power every eighteen months. For a long a time, computers were not powerful enough to have wide ranging effects on law, but that is now changing. And once computer power invades a domain, things can change very fast.
I had the pleasure of attending the Federalist Society’s faculty convention in New York last weekend. I learned, as always, a great deal about issues, including those outside my field, like intellectual property. But it was also an occasion to recall why the Federalist Society is so important to the cause of law and liberty in the United States.
Lawyers, as Alexis de Tocqueville noted almost two centuries ago, play a crucial role in the political order of the United States. He observed that United States lacked an aristocracy, and lawyers filled that void, because they were experts in the democracy’s mode of governance.
When society reflects the spontaneous ordering of private law and a limited role for government, lawyers tend to be a force for property and legal stability. Under those circumstances, it is private law, after all, that provides much of their living. Thus, lawyers by and large at the beginning of our republic protected the constitutional structures that both promoted commerce and sustained the rights of property.