On Lawyers vs. Robots


By Oliver Azi

I, for one detest argument that does not birth questions. This has been the problem with the recent debate on AI or robots replacing lawyers in our society.

You see, the robot v lawyer debate that has permeated the internet is a bit narrow when strictly used as a variable in determining the future of lawyers.

So many questions abound.

¶ The robot-lawyer; will it argue for the plaintiff/prosecution or defendant?

¶ If both parties get a robot to plead their case; will the judge also be a robot?

¶ If the judge is also robot; do we think humans will accept a reasoning of a robot judge no matter how top-notch it is?

¶ Even if we accept the decision of the superfluous robot judge; how do we begin judgment enforcement?

Sadly, like I’ve observed, the bulk of people making this arguments are largely non-lawyers and this births its limited scope.

The justice system transcend what’s being played at ”how to get away with murder” or what they did in the ”suit” movie. No, it is not.

To say robots will replace lawyer is to say robots will replace our society and its standardized institutions.

You do not change things like that.

Even a litigation proceeding dance beyond just doing arguments. The demeanor of witness; composure of counsel; and other crucial factors are being determined by the judge or jury. It is not just about dishing out arguments. It transcend beyond it.

To reduce law to a court room drama is to reduce society to Wole Soyinka’s ”Banana Republic”. I understand the popular side that AI now drafts contract for people.

Now, that’s beautiful, impressive and wonderful, except that; I’ve seen people who leverage on this and become bound by laws that they do not know or even clauses that are so laughable. There is no one-size-fit all approach and this is what AI algorithm is hinged on. Even Nigeria as a country operates over 36 legal systems.


A Nigerian Igbo trader being bounded by a law of Wuhan City in China. Which court will enforce it? He might have gotten an easy way to draft his contract, but has he gotten a contract that’s binding?

Begin the argument on private international law and I’ll tell you that it transcend beyond this.

For me, at best, the best arguments will/should be: The roles of law and lawyers in society will evolve– gradually. This has being the arguments of the futurist lawyer– Richard Susskind. I’ll agree to this.

But to completely eradicate and eliminate a profession because of the glorious impact of technology powered robots is preposterous. Who even programmed the robots to know the law? Tech pundits or Lawyers?

Beside, all this examples are just hinged on a particular field of law (contract and litigation); the legal profession is as wide as human history and diverse like the over 110 billion humans that the earth has ever witnessed.

Oliver Azi
University of Jos

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