Welcome to Throw Forward Thursday. My name is Graeme Codrington, and if it’s Thursday, we’re looking at the future. This week I am out of the studio, so I’m prerecording this intro and then showing you one of the news bulletins from the future that our team put together. We actually did this a little while ago. We do this for a lot of our clients to give them something to think about, something to provoke thought, something to get conversations started. If you like some of these resources from us, make sure you contact our team today.
We’re looking at robot lawyers.
On Friday this week, in a basic People’s Court in Shanghai, China, the first ever robot lawyer will appear on behalf of a client. The Chinese Supreme People’s Court has given the green light for this to go ahead in a landmark ruling today. Over the past ten years, legal tech has developed very quickly. Back in 2021, the first AI driven legal firm was spun out from the global legal giant Baker McKenzie. BM Online developed software that could both read through hundreds of pages of documents in just a few seconds and also listen to people talking about their cases and then do an analysis of the situation and find the appropriate case law, precedents, and legal issues involved.
Initially, it was a fairly simple system and could only handle the most straightforward of issues. But by 2025, BM Online had begun to gain attention for a few notable high-profile cases that included innovative approaches that impressed even the most seasoned lawyers. It was clear that Legal Tech could do more than just the standard, repetitive and formulaic work that forms the foundation of many legal practises. It was also able to come up with new ideas, be creative, and take on more complex projects than even the most optimistic observer had anticipated.
For many people, the most impressive outcome of the artificial intelligence driven legal work has been in the area of disputes, arbitration, and collective bargaining. The application of advanced game theory, together with psychological profiling and rapid negotiation iterations, seem to give the AI system an uncanny ability to find creative solutions that all parties appreciated. Legal Tech negotiation software often discovers solutions that human negotiators have not considered. When the European Union contracted the BM Online AI Legal Tech software to handle the 2028 round of trade negotiations with the USA on its behalf, many people were concerned they had moved too quickly with an untested application.
But the speed and efficiency and, of course, the highly acclaimed outcome of those talks only serve to cement AI legal tech reputation. So now in February 2030, as a new decade begins, it has surprised very few people that the Chinese Supreme People’s Court has given permission for Alibaba’s Ai Legal bought the Malian 20 XT to appear in court as legal counsel in Shanghai later this week. China has already declared the 2030’s as the decade of AI and have a stated goal of extending what they’ve done in China to global dominance of the space in the next ten years may be.
The only surprise is that it is Alibaba who has been able to bring legal tech to the courtroom first rather than BM Online, which has been dominant for most of the past decade. But it hasn’t surprised everyone. I spoke to one woman outside the courthouse today who was holding up a banner saying simply, thank you, Jack Ma. Zhang LAN Ying explained that back in 2017, when Alibaba announced a $15 billion investment in AI, she took her life savings and invested them in shares of the company.
With today’s announcement, Alibaba’s shares had their biggest single day surge in a long and impressive history. The share price peaked at $6,650 before easing slightly at the closing Bell. Mrs Zhang is now a millionaire and paying for her three children to go to it school. With the massive dividends that Alibaba has been paying for the past four years, she is hoping her children will be offered jobs as legal tech experts at Alibaba in the next few years. The legal world now waits to see how the male and 20 XT will fare in open court on Friday.
Will it be able to deal with the nuances of courtroom language? Will opposing council be able to outwit it with settle language shifts and complex legal intricacies? Will it get lost in the details and miss the emotional and human elements of influencing a judge and jury? Will it battle with ethical issues, or will it signal the beginning of the end for human attorneys? Will they go the same way that GPS have gone in the last five years and be augmented and even replaced by legal tech AI systems?
It’s probably too early to say how quickly that might happen, but that it will happen at some stage now seems beyond argument, even for a very good lawyer.
Just a little glimpse into the future there. Who knows? Maybe robotics, algorithms, artificial intelligence is coming for your profession just as much as it is for the lawyers. As always, if you are watching us on YouTube, please make sure that you subscribe and hit the notification bell. If you’re listening on our podcast, make sure that you subscribe to Graeme Codrington’s Future of Work podcast.
We provide these sorts of resources and many other resources aimed at helping you to prepare for the future of work. Otherwise, I’ll see you next Thursday live and in person again in the studio, as we look once again at something that we need to be thinking about as we think about the future.
Graeme Codrington, is an internationally recognized futurist, specializing in the future of work. He helps organizations understand the forces that will shape our lives in the next ten years, and how we can respond in order to confidently stay ahead of change. Chat to us about booking Graeme to help you Re-Imagine and upgrade your thinking to identify the emerging opportunities in your industry.
For the past two decades, Graeme has worked with some of the world’s most recognized brands, travelling to over 80 countries in total, and speaking to around 100,000 people every year. He is the author of 5 best-selling books, and on faculty at 5 top global business schools.