Musings on The Near Future

When we first started helping litigants with electronic evidence, there was a lack of paying clients. This was because few lawyers then had any grasp of tech who weren’t actively in tech, and courts had even less. Strange, isn’t it, that cases that could have benefitted from electronic evidence failed to capitalize on it, because the people responsible for litigation didn’t grasp is importance. Like only eating the same fast food because you don’t know there’s a restaurant one block over. But gradually it crept in. It took literally decades, but here we are. Now only the very rural or new do not grasp the import of electronic evidence materials.

For the past decade we’ve had a labor shortage, which has worked out well for us, providing a stable enough demand to operate as an independent consulting group, but that is changing.   As the lawyers have become more knowledgeable, demand for technical expertise and billable hours have shrunk, while more professional consultants crowd the field. Fortunately, it is not exactly a commodity service, so we have not suffered a drawdown, but it has limited growth. We see two areas of interest in the near future.

One, is the typical business Oroborus cycle of acquisition and merger. We will likely meet this fate within several years, being small and specialized. Not a problem except as it leads to stagnating methods and standardized responses with higher costs. Sorry, consumers.

The second area is far more dire, and that is the advent of expert systems, or what the ignorant refer to as AI. Experts systems are codified judgement engines that modify their rules based on results. They “learn” from outcomes. Where an expert now collects, processes, and constructs affidavits or testimony, eventually 95% of that work, and the lawyer activity surrounding it, will be done by a supervised expert system.

At which point our job, the technical consultant, turns to criticizing and improving those systems. But it will drastically alter the legal playing field. Especially where one side can afford it and one can’t. We will likely need to extend the right to counsel to include the right to expert system advice. 

One day there will be a public defender computer made of old code and rusty hardware trying to keep up with too many cases and the shiny new Wall Street supercomputer expert system.

I, for one, welcome our new robot overlords as they can be mathematically proven to be fair and unbiased and mistake free. But that’s still at least a decade away, more likely two.