The warning bells have been ringing for at least two decades: The legal profession as we’ve known it is doomed, and lawyers must adapt—or face extinction. For the most part, these dire predictions have been ignored, even as globalization and technology have revolutionized markets, affecting everything from airline travel to taxicabs. Yes, law firms have been outsourcing legal research to India, and electronic discovery is taking over some basic tasks. But lawyers have tended to see themselves as immune: a guild of highly educated advisers whose wisdom, savvy and deep understanding of a complex series of laws are irreplaceable.
Then a computer named Watson beat a human on “Jeopardy!” Now all bets are off.