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Professor’s warning to law community over AI

18 September 2018

A law academic has warned that the law profession might be killed off due to Artificial Intelligence (AI).

AI is an advanced intelligent agent in the form of a machine or software that has the ability to evaluate its environment and take action on its own without human intervention.

Professor John Hopkins of the University of Canterbury School of Law says the increasing cost of legal advice and the excessive formality of the legal system has left the way open for alternative ways to undertake the ‘law jobs’, without the need of lawyers.

“If current trends continue, the much maligned profession may die out, all on its own,” Professor Hopkins told a UC public lecture entitled “Law without lawyers: does legal education have a future?” last week.

The law profession has long been aware of both the dangers and benefits of AI.

In the October 2016 edition of LawTalk, Grant Pritchard, a committee member of ILANZ wrote: “I am still fundamentally optimistic about the future of law. Tomorrow’s lawyers will be different from today’s – we’ll work differently, think differently, deploy different skillsets, communicate and collaborate differently and provide value differently – but we’ll still be here.”

But Professor Hopkins painted a gloomier picture.

“From Blockchain to ‘Alternative’ Dispute Resolution, the way appears open for a legal system without the need for the high priests of the legal profession to navigate it,” he said.

Successful law schools will be those that shrug off their isolationist exceptionalism and embrace a multi-disciplinary future, Professor Hopkins said.

“In effect, the changing relationship between law and society will drive legal education back to its academic roots. The future of legal academia is the study of law, not the training of lawyers.”

Last updated on the 16th September 2019