2047: the last batch of interns arrives at the office.
Lawyers of the future could have microchips implanted in their brains, making them more efficient and allowing them to bill by “attention units”, according to a report commissioned by the Law Society.
Embedded chips will become the “iPhone of the future” for lawyers, claims the report “Neurotechnology, Law and the Legal Profession”, authored by Professor Allan McCay of the University of Sydney.
Neurotechnology is an electronic device that interacts with the nervous system. It can be viewed by a user wearing a helmet or a bracelet, or even having a chip implanted in the brain. It is used to treat conditions such as Parkinson’s disease or epilepsy. Elon Musk is a business mogul to see the potential for growth, as he has invested in neurotechnology in recent years.
The report states that changes in billing “may be driven by the attention-monitoring capabilities of neurotechnology.” Which could “incentivize billable hours” to “billable attention units”, making creative narrative entries in bills a thing of the past.
Technology could also improve a lawyer’s capacity and ability to handle complex cases, and therefore reduce the number of people and the costs of a legal case. Or it could create a bunch of joyless beings unable to slip away for even a few hours because their own brains send them to HR.
Richard Susskind, a futurist in the legal profession, said some AI systems are already outperforming junior lawyers for tasks such as reviewing documents. “In the long run, we’ll all be digitally enhanced,” Susskind said. “The only question is whether this processing and storage is inside or outside of our body.”
The Law Society’s director of strategy, Kion Ahadi, said in the report that “the debate about whether and how we should prepare our brains to be ‘wired’ into technical devices must begin today”, noting that “any such merger raises interesting issues and complex ethical and legal questions”.
Some ethical issues highlighted in the report include concerns about “mental privacy” with organizations having access to “brain data”, which could give “the power to manipulate people”. Although this may be the ideal sales pitch for the management of some companies.
And, in the style of an episode of Black Mirror, the report also considered whether, in the future, a defendant accused of criminal behavior could claim it was the result of their neurotech device or brain being hacked; which could also be an interesting defense for solicitors brought before the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal for misconduct.