Training Lawyers for the Algorithmic Society

After delving deeper into how AI will affect legal research, it's natural to develop a healthy fear about what is being dubbed the "Algorithmic Society." In the Algorithmic Society, we will continue to increasingly rely on algorithms to govern populations.

While we're not at a point where algorithms can understand natural language processing akin to the human brain, it's not inconceivable that with technology's exponential rate of acceleration that computers will one day be able to master the highest levels of natural language processing and "think" like a human brain.

As computers get closer to thinking like humans, where does that leave us?

According to the Harvard Business Review (sub req'd), What is needed is a new definition of being smart, one that promotes higher levels of human thinking and emotional engagement. The new smart will be determined not by what or how you know but by the quality of your thinking, listening, relating, collaborating, and learning. Quantity is replaced by quality. And that shift will enable us to focus on the hard work of taking our cognitive and emotional skills to a much higher level.

HBR goes on to tell us what this higher-level thinking will look like. We will spend more time training to be open-minded and learning to update our beliefs in response to new data. We will practice adjusting after our mistakes, and we will invest more in the skills traditionally associated with emotional intelligence. The new smart will be about trying to overcome the two big inhibitors of critical thinking and team collaboration: our ego and our fears. Doing so will make it easier to perceive reality as it is, rather than as we wish it to be. In short, we will embrace humility. That is how we humans will add value in a world of smart technology.

We shouldn't wait for computers to completely overtake us in terms of traditional smarts before we start to master the new skills required for higher level thinking. We should start to develop the quality of thinking, listening, relating, collaborating, and learning that will define smartness in the Algorithmic Society.

In reading this HBR article, I couldn't help but think about the way that we train lawyers. So much of the training is focused on rote memorization of laws to then apply those laws. However, with the increasing ease of looking up the law, these future lawyers will rely less and less on rote memorization to do their work. When training future lawyers, law schools should more fully simulate the real-world experience of legal work, including providing opportunities for students to use the resources that they will inevitably use in practice.

With less rote memorization, law schools would have more time to teach sound legal research skills and focus on the additional skills that will be helpful in practice -- many of the same skills that will give humans an edge in the Algorithmic Society.


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