Byte of Prevention Blog

by Jay Reeves |

The Future of Law In the Form of a Question?

The Future of Law In the Form of  QuestionA Jeopardy champion is making waves because of the tactics he used to win big bucks. 

Instead of playing the usual way – by starting with the lowest dollar clue in each category and methodically working his way up to the highest – Arthur Chu jumped all over the quiz board.

He based his game plan on statistical outcomes and probability theory. Sometimes he buzzed in but made no attempt to answer – simply to pre-empt his opponents. In Final Jeopardy he used a mathematical calculation to guarantee that he would finish at least in a tie, draining the segment of all drama.

In so doing, Chu drew the ire of Jeopardy lovers. They called him cold and calculating. They said he had all the personality of an iPad.

Even Alex Trebek was irritated.

But Chu – who works by day as an insurance compliance officer – shrugged off the criticism, pocketed his winnings and whistled merrily to the bank.

Computing is Not Counseling

It might be tempting to use Chu’s strategy in your law practice. After all, technology seems to be taking over the profession. And techies say we ain’t seen nothing yet. New tools that are on the way will blow our minds.

But what proved successful on Jeopardy might not work quite as well in your practice.

Clients want an attorney, not an algorithm. They want a counselor, not a calculator.

Unlike on Jeopardy, the lawyers who succeed in the new economy won’t be Chu-like. Just the opposite, say some experts. The legal winners of the future will be those who embrace technology while holding tightly to some essential human traits. Among them:

  • Enthusiasm. “The amount of information in front of us is practically infinite,” writes New York Times columnist David Brooks. “So is that amount of data that can be collected with new tools. The people who seem to do best possess a voracious explanatory drive, an almost obsessive need to follow their curiosity. Maybe they started with obsessive gaming sessions, or marathon all-night study sessions, but they are driven to perform extended bouts of concentration, diving into and trying to make sense of these bottomless information oceans.”
  • Strategic thinking. Computers can crank numbers forever. But they lack the distinctly human ability to pause, step aside, pour a cup of tea and ask, Are we having fun yet?
  • Delayed gratification. When it comes to memorizing, storing and regurgitating data, we are no match for a Mac. But when it comes to having a dream and beginning the long journey of making that dream come true, humans rule.
  • The ability to build a better mousetrap. Our age rewards what Brooks calls procedural architects. “The giant Internet celebrities didn’t so much come up with ideas, they came up with systems in which other people could express ideas: Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia.”
  • The power to motivate and manage people. Can you imagine a computer delivering the “Freedom!” speech in Braveheart?
  • Creativity. “Any child can say, I’m a dog and pretend to be a dog,” writes Brooks. “Computers struggle to come up with the essence of ‘I’ and the essence of ‘dog,’ and they really struggle with coming up with what parts of ‘I-ness’ and ‘dog-ness’ should be usefully blended if you want to pretend to be a dog. This is an important skill because creativity can be described as the ability to grasp the essence of one thing, and then the essence of some very different thing, and smash them together to create some entirely new thing.

So don’t worry. The way to win against PDAs, smartphones and apps is simply to be what you already are. Human.

Jay Reeves a/k/a The Risk Man is an attorney licensed in North Carolina and South Carolina. Formerly he was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. Contact, phone 919-619-2441.

  • ABC News


About the Author

Jay Reeves

Jay Reeves practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina. He was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. He is the author of The Most Powerful Attorney in the World, a collection of short stories from a law life well-lived, which as the seasons pass becomes less about law and liability and more about loss, love, longing, laughter and life's lasting luminescence.

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