While I really appreciate the spirit of this article, I have to say that the question posed by the author is not actually the critical one. As noted by Larry Ribstein in his post “Lawyers in Jeopardy” — the primary question raised by Watson and other forms of soft to medium artificial intelligence is their impact on the market for legal services. In thinking about this broader problem, I am haunted by the line from There Will be Blood – “I Drink Your Milkshake.” In this metaphor, technology is the straw and the legal information engineer is Daniel Day Lewis.
It is worth noting that although high-end offerings such as Watson represent a looming threat to a variety of professional services — one need not look to something as lofty as Watson to realize the future is likely to be turbulent. Law’s Information Revolution is already underway and it is a revolution in data and a revolution in software. Software is eating the world and the market for legal services has already been impacted. This is only the beginning. We are at the very cusp of a data driven revolution that will usher in new fields such as Quantitative Legal Prediction (which I have discussed here).
Pressure on Big Law will continue. Simply consider the extent to which large institutional clients are growing in their sophistication. These clients are developing the data-streams necessary to effectively challenge their legal bills. Whether this challenge is coming from corporate procurement departments, corporate law departments or with the aid of third parties — the times they are indeed a-changin’.
A variety of intermediary consulting firms and legal informatics companies have developed a robust business advising corporate clients how to find various arbitrage opportunities in the legal services market. One of the best examples is TyMetrix — who has recently leveraged more than $4 billion in legal spend data to help General Counsels and their corporate law departments drive down legal costs. Indeed, The Real Rate Report has made a huge splash (if you do know what I am talking about – I suggest you learn – because it is a pretty big deal).