According to a new study entitled “Can Robots Be Lawyers?” the answer is no, because legal work involves talking to your client and going to court. The study refers to this as “unstructured human interaction,” which is putting it mildly. But we think its conclusion is an unwarranted slur on robots, who are perfectly adept at human interaction, structured or not:
Scene: Starship Enterprise Appellate Division.
Captain: Have you finished deciding those appeals, Data?
Data: Only 500 more left, Captain. I should be done in ten minutes.
Worf: How do you do that, Data?
Data: I’ve been programmed with a complete set of constitutional principles, which I check against the trial proceedings. Based on my algorithmic comparisons, they’re completely incompatible. The convictions have to be reversed.
Captain: What? The Romulans will never agree! Can’t you randomly affirm a few?
Data: I’m afraid my programming – –
Yoda: Defendant entitled to fair trial, not perfect trial.
Worf: Get lost, Yoda, this is Star Trek.
Captain: (picking an appeal at random). Here, affirm this one. The prosecutor told the jury that the defendant sold drugs lots of times before, so he’s obviously guilty.
Yoda: When you put your interests above society, society put its interests above you.
Data: I wish I could oblige, sir, but my programming prevents me from upholding a conviction based on nothing but propensity.
Yoda: Due process flexible standard, not mechanical yardstick.
Captain: That’s your limitation as a robot, Data. If you were human, you’d understand that applying the law means saying one thing and doing the opposite.
Data: That seems most inefficient, sir. But I will endeavor to adjust my programing (whirring noises).
Captain: Here, affirm this one. The judge took a guilty plea without explaining to the defendant what rights he was giving up. Says right here he had a lawyer, so he obviously knew his rights without needing to have them explained by a judge.
Yoda: No need for rigid catechism, ritual litany.
Data: Very well, I’ll adjust my programming again (grinding noises).
Captain: And these SORA appeals. All of these people should be elevated to maximum risk level based on the egregiousness of the crime!
Yoda: SORA not punishment but to protect public safety.
Data: But that’s incompatible with – – incompatible with – – incompatible with – – (singing) Daisy, Daisy, I’m half crazy all for the love of yoooo – –
Worf: Captain, he’s breaking down!
Captain: It just goes to show – legal work is just too complex for robots.