2047: the latest batch of trainees arrive at the office.
Lawyers of the future could have electronic chips implanted in their brains, making them more efficient and allowing them to bill by "units of attention", 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,' which was penned by professor Allan McCay of the University of Sydney.
Neurotechnology is an electronic device which interacts with the nervous system. It can be accessed by a user wearing a headset or wristband, 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 one business magnate to see the potential for growth, as he has invested in neurotechnology over recent years.
The report said that changes to billing "may be brought about by the attention-monitoring capacities of neurotechnologies". Which could "prompt a move from billable hours" to "billable units of attention,” making creative narrative entries in invoices a thing of the past.
The technology could also enhance the capacity and ability of a lawyer to deal with complex matters, and therefore reduce the number of people and costs for a legal matter. Or it could create a swathe of joyless beings unable to skive for even a couple of hours because their own brain snitches on them to HR.
Richard Susskind, a legal profession futurist, said that some AI systems were already outperforming junior lawyers for tasks such as document reviewing. “In the long run, we’ll all be digitally enhanced," said Susskind. "The only question is whether that processing and storage is inside or outside our bodies.”
The Law Society's director of strategy, Kion Ahadi, said in the report that the "debate on whether and how we should make our brains ready to be 'plugged' into technical devices must begin today", noting that “any such fusion poses interesting and complex ethical and legal issues”.
Some ethical issues highlighted in the report include concerns about "mental privacy" with organisations having access to "brain data", which could give "rise to a power to manipulate people". Although this might be the perfect sales pitch for management at some firms.
And, in the style of a Black Mirror episode, the report also considered whether, in the future, a defendant accused of criminal behaviour might argue that it was a result of having their neurotech device or brain hacked; which could also be an interesting defence for solicitors hauled before the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal for misconduct.