If you're worried the robots are going to take all our jobs, a new study reported recently on Hacker Noon seems like it will do nothing to comfort you.

The set up of the study was an old-fashioned head-to-head matchup. Twenty of the country's top corporate lawyers were pitted against a specialized A.I. called the the LawGeex AI in a battle to see who could spot the flaws in five Non-Disclosure Agreements with the greatest speed and accuracy. The issues with the common documents were previously established by an independent team of expers, including law professors from Duke, UCLA, and a senior partner from a top corporate law firm.

So who won this epic (if nerdy) battle of man versus machine? Sorry human fans, it was the bots.

The LawGeex AI achieved "an average 94 percent accuracy rate, higher than the lawyers who achieved an average rate of 85 percent. It took the lawyers an average of 92 minutes to complete the NDA issue spotting, compared to 26 seconds for the LawGeex AI," reports Hacker Noon.

That isn't even close.

Should we all panic now?

At first glimpse these results (and other recent feats of successful robo-lawyering) sound like pretty terrible news for lawyers specifically and knowledge workers generally. The study seems to back up predictions from consultancy McKinsey that 22 percent of lawyers' work will be taken over by robots in the coming years.

But when Hacker Noon reached out to the vanquished lawyers to get their feelings about their defeat, they responses they got back were surprisingly upbeat. In fact, some of the legal hot shots sounded downright thrilled to be bested by the bot. Here's a sampling of their comments:

  • "[A.I.] can really help lawyers sift through these documents, and cut down on the sometimes-deliberate verbosity of these documents which can allow one party to mask core issues." - Zakir Mir

  • "I think this would help clients in getting better pricing and allow lawyers to focus on more complex projects." - Samantha Javier

  • "Participating in this experiment really opened my eyes to how ridiculous it is for attorneys to spend their time (as well as their clients' money) creating or reviewing documents like NDAs which are so fundamentally similar to one another. Having a tool that could automate this process would free up skilled attorneys to spend their time on higher-level tasks."  - Grant Gulovsen

  • "As a chess player and attorney I will take from Grandmaster Vishy Anand and say the future of law is 'human and computer'... Either working alone is inferior to the combination of both. I view AI and technology as exciting new tools that would allow for such drudgework to be done faster and more efficiently." - Justin Brown

  • "AI has huge potential in reducing time on standard contract reviews and making legal advice accessible and affordable for all." - Hua Wang

In other words, McKinsey is right. Robots are poised to take significant parts of lawyers' jobs off their plates. But the twist is, lawyers can't wait to hand this work off to an A.I. 

The robots are coming for the worst parts of your job.

These responses highlight a problem with much of the commentary on A.I. disruption of existing jobs. Yes, robots are going to change things considerably in a lot of industries, and that will be a wrenching transition for some workers. Questions also remain about how to divvy up the spoils of the coming A.I. revolution. These are undeniably big challenges.

But the fact remains that for lots of knowledge workers our new A.I. officemates will actually end up doing the most boring parts of our work -- the "drudgework" as Justin Brown puts it above. Getting things done more efficiently can only benefit consumers, but it's good for skilled and ambitious workers too. 

If a computer can accomplish the repetitive, soul-sucking parts of many professions that will free up human talent to work on more complex and creative problems. That might mean coasting through a mindless gig to make ends meet will be harder in the future, but if that's not your aim, the rise of the robots very well may make your workday a lot more fulfilling and fun.

Published on: Nov 9, 2018