Photo by James MacDonald/Bloomberg
Photo by James MacDonald/Bloomberg

This is What the Dean of Harvard Law School Thinks About AI

Will technology eventually put lawyers out of work?

The debate is growing in the legal profession as many have sounded off on how technology-assisted review (TAR) and artificial intelligence may continue to commoditize the law practice and eat into humans’ work.

The dean of Harvard Law School weighed in on the topic at a law conference last week at the Hilton in midtown Manhattan, landing squarely on the side of the argument that the problem is over-hyped.

Martha Minow said that human lawyers will always play a role in the legal process, but needed to figure out how to complement evolving technological tools.

Pointing to companies like eBay that have settled millions of disputes without human involvement, Minow said that she has “great hope” that with AI and machine learning, “we may well close the justice gap.”

On the other hand, Minow said she didn’t see computers having a role in matters that require subjective legal judgment.

“Assessment and critique of justice and justice mechanisms, I don’t see AI taking that on. Nor do I see AI taking on ethics,” she said. “I don’t mean to suggest there is no relation between AI and ethical suggestions, but I don’t think you’ll ever get rid of the human being. There will always be a need for human beings.”

The comments came during a panel session titled, “Challenges Facing the Legal Profession and Strategies to Address Them.”

Minow spoke alongside panelists Benjamin H. Barton, a professor at University of Tennessee College of Law, Laurel Terry, a professor at The Pennsylvania State University — Dickinson Law and moderator Deborah Rhode, professor at Stanford Law School.

What do you think of Minow’s comments? How do you think artificial intelligence will affect the legal practice? Let us know in the comments section or write to us at biglawbusiness@bna.com.

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