There’s an interesting article at City Journal about the challenges that automation is posing to the practice of law:
Law schools are in crisis, facing their most substantial decline in enrollment in decades, if not in the history of legal education. Applications have fallen over 40 percent since 2004. The legal workplace is troubled, too. Benjamin Barton, of the University of Tennessee College of Law, has shown that attorneys in “small law,” such as solo practitioners, have been hurting for a decade. Attorney job growth has been flat; partner incomes at large firms have recently recovered from the economic downturn, but the going rate for associates, even at the best firms, has stagnated since 2007.
Some observers, not implausibly, blame the recession for these developments. But the plight of legal education and of the attorney workplace is also a harbinger of a looming transformation in the legal profession. Law is, in effect, an information technology—a code that regulates social life. And as the machinery of information technology grows exponentially in power, the legal profession faces a great disruption not unlike that already experienced by journalism, which has seen employment drop by about a third and the market value of newspapers devastated. The effects on law will take longer to play themselves out, but they will likely be even greater because of the central role that lawyers play in public life.
I’ll offer one caution about the article: it’s written by a law professor who, based on his CV, probably hasn’t taken a math course since he was in high school 35 years ago and has the respect for the boundless powers of computers common to people who don’t know anything about them.
Jurimetrics (the application of science to law) is still in its infancy and will probably remain so as long as most lawyers and, more importantly, judges are classical languages majors rather than science or engineering majors which is to say forever. I can’t remember who first said it but one of the reasons that physics is so orderly is that the people who are attracted to studying it tend to have orderly minds while the social sciences are a mess because the people who are attracted to studying them don’t.