Look out, lawyers, the days of charging $500 an hour are numbered, as digital disruption cuts a swath through the oldest and most conservative of professions and up-ends traditional legal services.
Canadian barrister, author and legal futurist Mitch Kowalski says the writing is on the wall - and traditional firms whose partners ignore it will find themselves elbowed out by more nimble and keenly priced upstarts.
In Australia this week as the keynote speaker at the annual LawTech Summit in Noosa, Queensland, Mr Kowalski says computers themselves will take over much of the brain work that keeps lawyers in jobs.
Applications that enable clients to enter a series of facts and receive the probable outcome of a legal matter, based on the relevant case law and statutes, stand to shorten the litigation process dramatically. In some cases they will head it off altogether, Mr Kowalski believes.
"It will reduce the amount of litigation. Very little reaches trial stage and even less will do so."
Meanwhile, more low-end jobs will be outsourced to cut-price lawyers working for legal process outsourcers in South Africa, the Philippines and India, leaving fewer opportunities for graduates entering the profession, he said.
The information and communications technologies sector has experienced a similar phenomenon over the past 10 years. Companies have sent programming and support work to developing countries, a move Australians ICT professionals say has destroyed career opportunities for local graduates and mid-career workers.
"The old model of delivering legal services is at the end of its natural life cycle," Mr Kowalski said. "It has served us well for 100 years and now it doesn't."
The US already had a glut of lawyers and these developments would exacerbate the problem.
Read the full story at theage.com.au/it-pro