Barristers need to keep tabs on what tech means for their profession, warns chairman of the Bar

Hayley Kirton
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A laptop
Could this humble machine spell trouble for legal eagles? (Source: Getty)

Legal eagles need to think long and hard about what exactly technology means for the future of their profession, the chairman of the Bar has cautioned.

Speaking yesterday at the International Bar Association conference in Washington, Chantal-Aimee Doerries QC warned certain aspects of the modern working world, including commercial pressures, red tape and political problems as well as technology, risked undermining professionalism within the bar.

"Contemporary society is a world in which technological innovation, or the tech revolution, is undoubtedly changing rapidly the way we live our lives and how we do things in every day life, including how we work," said Doerries. "This is the case across the world. It has been said that the next 18 months we will experience change at a pace equivalent to that of the last 20 years.

"As lawyers, and as barristers, we must be prepared for these changes. It is not a matter of choice. Whether as individuals we like these changes or not, we cannot afford to ignore them."

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Doerries raised questions about what the rise of the legal machines meant for ethics in the profession, highlighting concerns about whether a machine could be trained to act professionally or to exercise judgement.

"As lawyers we will need to re-double our efforts to encourage professional standards and professional conduct in an age when more of us will work away from chambers, or the office, and we engage with each other and our clients virtually, and rely upon artificial intelligence for research," she added.

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In particular, Doerries referenced technology such as Luminance, a piece of software created to analyse lengthy documents in the same way a trained lawyer would which was designed in collaboration with a magic circle firm.

"Future technology will inevitably change the legal market, and how we as legal professionals practise," Doerries continued. "In some cases such companies will assist us and in others they may well compete with traditional lawyers, and indeed in some areas they may well replace lawyers. This will give rise to a number of questions."

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