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Robots and Lawyers: New Horizons of the Profession

Efficient implementation of IT solutions to enhance law-related work as well as influence of robots on the legal domain were discussed at the "Robots and Lawyers: New Horizons of the Profession" panel as part of the VII St Petersburg Legal Forum. 

The session was chaired by Sergey Pereverzev, Chief Legal Officer at MegaFon PJSC. Mikhail Ilyin, Head of Corporate Law Projects at S&K Vertical, Steve Crown, Vice President and Deputy General Counsel at Microsoft, Till Kreutzer, Partner at iRights.Law, Alexey Pelevin, Founder of Pravo.ru, Alexander Savelyev, Legal attorney at IBM Eastern Europe/Asia Ltd. and Holger Zscheyge, General Director of Infotropic Media, took part in the session.

Sergey Pereverzev, Chief Legal Officer at MegaFon PJSC, opened the discussion by introducing the participants to the main trends in automation for the legal domain. Among the important topics he mentioned were neural networks and other technologies as well as digitizing standardized documents and attempts to bring all the communication with lawyers online. Mr. Pereverzev noted that some experts are not ready to agree using robots and new technologies in their work because they fear that robots may be taking away jobs from them and undermine the labour market. It's also debatable if mathematical data processing methods without human participation are really suitable for a legal case.

Alexey Pelevin, Founder of Pravo.ru, spoke in favor of new technologies and demonstrated usage statistics for "Arbitration Case Catalog", a very popular IT database used by lawyers. "Currently, we have over 20 million arbitration cases recorded in our database. Every two hours, 70,000 cases are downloaded from the system. 2016 statistics show that 1.5 million people are using the database on a daily basis. These are all unique users", Pelevin told. Till Kreutzer, partner at iRights.Law, also opted for new technologies. "Auxiliary tools will influence both lawyers and the legal profession as a whole because they are able to replace humans. These are not the smart innovations, not the artificial intelligence we know from sci-fi movies. Indeed, these tools can replace humans, but not all of them, only the lawyer assistants or trainees. I don't see anything bad or problematic about these technologies. It's crucial, however, for the people to actually know how to benefit from them", the lawyer said. He also stressed that auxiliary tools can help lawyers with their daily routines and told that U.S. legal practitioners are already using event-prediction services.

Several participants of the discussion were neutral towards modern IT solutions. "I cannot say I'm a proponent of the one or another opinion. Automation will surely happen regardless of what lawyers are thinking about it. Everyone will be forced to adapt to the new rules to stay competitive in the market. Generally, I don't expect people getting fired in thousands just because their business processes got automated", said Alexander Savelyev, legal attorney at IBM Eastern Europe/Asia Ltd. Using a musical allegory, he also told the story behind the smart contract: "In times of smart contracts and automation, the lawyer is a conductor of an orchestra consisting of robots or electronic agents. He must always be ready to step down from the conductor's stand, however, take a cello himself and be able to come up with a new tune", Savelyev added.

Rounding up the discussion, Steve Crown, Vice President and Deputy General Counsel at Microsoft, noted that these are lawyers who help the society to function efficiently, while Holger Zscheyge, General Director of Infotropic Media, added that the ever-accelerating technology development will be one of the main trends of the five coming years.

Concluding the panel, the moderator reminded the participants that there's no point for lawyers to avoid new technologies–using them wisely is what really matters.