With the advent of artificial intelligence (AI), countless news stories are predicting the imminent demise of lawyers (generally to loud applause). The idea is that you will soon be able to plug your legal question into a computer (which will presumably resemble a Kubrickian monolith) and the computer will spit out the answer.

So, why wouldn’t you entrust a computer (with its infinite cache of knowledge and precedent) to perform this task? Well, in my view there are a few things to consider…

Judgment is a skill

Doctors may have faced the same problem years ago. Plug your symptoms into Google, and it spits out the diagnosis and treatment. Except that… it doesn’t.

The ability to correctly diagnose an illness or condition is a skill that takes time and experience to develop. It is also usually something that cannot be done in one sentence, or with one question. In real life, doctors spend the time to take a full medical history and to understand their patient before offering a diagnosis.

So it is with lawyers. A good lawyer will take the time to understand who you are, what you are seeking and why.

Answers to legal questions are not always black and white

A few questions can be resolved by looking up a provision in the relevant Act. However, if your question isn’t printed in black in the relevant Act (and most aren’t) then the answer probably won’t be black or white either.

It is easy to forget that every precedent case had someone arguing the complete opposite from their side of the bar table. That someone may have been a hair’s breadth away from persuading the Judge that theirs was the correct argument.

A good lawyer understands that precedents generally need to be understood in context. They will guide you to an understanding of the relevant principles involved, rather than just spit out an answer that makes no sense to you.

Successful people don’t use lawyers less, they use lawyers more

Take any high-performing business person and ask them if they have a lawyer. Of course they do, and it’s not Google!

Most experienced business people have long-standing relationships with their lawyers. They understand the relief that a timely conversation with a “sounding board” can bring. The idea of depriving someone of this relationship and replacing it with a piece of software makes for a lonely and stressful picture.

A desire for engineered outcomes

It is human nature to try to engineer the answer you want.

I had a client a few years who would often ask me “can I do x?”. The answer was of course “yes” (which was the answer he probably wanted), however I would have to gently persuade him that the real question was “should I do x?”, to which my answer was always “no”. In asking a question, there is a tendency towards framing it in a way that puts the asker in the best possible light. This is not of itself untoward, but it can detract from the objectivity required to make a fair assessment of the situation.

Good lawyers will take the time to tease out the details and not just tell you the answer, but help you to understand it, so that you can accept it and implement it in a practical way.

It is very difficult to envisage AI ever having the nuance required to perform this sort of a task.

Why choose a lawyer?

So, just as you would go to a doctor if you were about to start an exercise program, or to a physiotherapist because you have a problematic knee, come in and see one of our lawyers if you are experiencing “discomfort” of a legal nature. We will help you understand the relevant law and how it applies to you, so that you are better equipped to make informed and objective decisions.