Doctors v Lawyers – What JDs Can Learn From MDs

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Doctors v Lawyers – What JDs Can Learn From MDs

By Anna Lozynski, Senior Attorney at inCite Legal Tech.

During a party, a doctor is telling a lawyer that he is sick of his friends asking him for free medical advice. The lawyer says, ‘just do what I do, and leave a bill in their mailbox’. The doctor decides he’ll give that a try and thanks his lawyer friend. When the doctor gets home, he has a bill in his mailbox from the lawyer.

In case you missed it, that’s a joke by the way.

We hear the line ‘the legal profession is so unique’ too often these days. It’s become a mask of sorts justifying the putting off modernization, transformation, technology adoption and adapting to the digital age.

In a recent conversation with Artificial Lawyer, Richard Tromans and I had a debate about why the legal profession is not as unique as most claim. Specifically, that if the medical profession could have its fingers on the tech pulse, then similarly, the legal profession could do so too.

The Oxford Dictionary defines a profession as an occupation requiring specialized knowledge and formal (and long) academic preparation.

Professionals exhibit certain consistent features; for instance, a professional can be characterized as possessing the following attributes: (a) a commitment to advancing the interests of his or her client or patient; (b) a high level of competence; (c) obligations to fellow professionals and the larger community; and (d) a high level of regulation, including an oath, Codes of Conduct, amongst other legislation and rules.

On the surface, one may resist the notion that the two fields have much in common.

However, if we examine the daily work of lawyers and doctors, the two are arguably similar – ‘rapidly synthesizing information while interacting with clients or patients’. Both lawyers and doctors are in the business of solving (complex) problems. Central to both professional roles are the development and use of judgment in executing their brain powered craft operating within highly regulated environments and under pressure. Human error in both cases can lead to adverse consequences, or incorrect advice. (But let’s get real – only a subset of attorneys deals with matters concerning life and death). 

Across both professions, the question of whether MDs and JDs will be replaced by technology makes regular headlines.

Attorneys seem to take comfort in experts predicting that they are ‘pretty safe’ from a future of robotics, and artificial intelligence. One article advances that ‘it’s hard to imagine’ robots drafting briefs and writing research papers.

And yet in medicine, robots are being used for surgery: The global robotics surgery market is dominated by three regions: North America (57% share of the market), Europe (20%), and Asia-Pacific (17%). The growth of the industry – expected to reach $US24 billion by 2025 – will soon make many more types of operation possible, including Neurosurgery, Orthopaedic surgery, and Gynaecology surgery’.

While the same fear about AI subsists in the medical profession – that doctors will inevitably be replaced – physicians expect almost one-third of their job to be automated by 2040, according to Stanford Medicine. At this stage, McKinsey confirms that only 23% of a lawyer’s job can be automated.

For context, let’s examine the size of each of the professions –

At a macro level, there seems to be a far greater acceptance by the medical profession of an augmented reality. There’s a mindset that technology will enhance doctors as professionals, rather than pose a threat or adversely affect their business models.

‘Generally speaking, I’m excited about anything that allows doctors to be more of a doctor and that would make our job easier, so that we can focus our time on the hard part’, Ann Marie Navar MD, PhD, Dallas Texas, commented to TCTMD.

‘If a computer-based algorithm can help me more quickly filter out what therapy somebody should or shouldn’t be on and help me estimate the potential benefit of those therapies of an individual patient, that’s great. That saves me a lot of cognitive load and frankly time that I can then spend on the fun part of being a doctor – which is the patient-physician interface’.

What Dr Navar shares could equally be said by an attorney. Well, one that with an openness to adapting to the digital age.

Speaking of the digital age, the total global market for healthcare apps was valued at just $US2.4 billion in 2017. That value has grown by almost 20 times in 2020, with the universe containing some 350,000 digital solutions. Experts predict that this will continue to rise to a value of $US125.32 billion by 2028.

By contrast, in 2021 the global legal tech market was valued at US$18.4 billion, across a universe of over 700 legal tech apps. It’s predicted this will rise by 11% through to 2025. Thus, the trajectory for growth and adoption across the two fields is starkly different, despite both professions experiencing accelerated tech adoption due to the pandemic.

But is consumer demand the reason for medicine having more fingers on the tech pulse? Almost half of the global revenue of the legal industry. A large portion of the almost $100 billion legal market is generating its revenues from B2B, and not B2C.

Law firms of all sizes will report that the client demand for use of technology as part of delivering legal services is still emergent. But is that because its practitioners (and B2B clients) are lagging in terms of what I call a tech first approach – placing technology at the top of the standard legal services delivery checklist?

My 80-year-old father, who is based in Europe, recently had surgery to remove his gallbladder. Without having to specifically ask, he was given two surgical options and their pricing: a human surgeon only, or a robotic assisted surgery. He chose to pay extra for the latter because the procedure would be shorter, and the error rates were lower. In other words, a human surgeon supervising a robot gave him more comfort and confidence going in.

In sum, it appears that the use of technology in the medical field is more normalised and embedded than in the legal industry. In medicine, it’s accepted that technology has helped to reduce errors, leverage data collection, accelerate research, prevent adverse reactions, and improve overall care and accessibility.

Sound familiar? These same positives are touted as benefits of technology for the legal sector too. And thus it serves as another reminder that JDs shouldn’t put off accelerating their technology targets any longer in this post-pandemic environment. Because if MDs can have their finger on the tech pulse, JDs as kindred professional spirits, should be inspired to do so too.

And that’s exactly how we are supporting the law firm sector at inCite LEGAL TECH – to deliver the legal tech health check the industry keeps putting off.

We’re an attorney-led team of digital experts, giving firms the best possible chance at advancing their digital infrastructure. We developed a system to analyze your internal legal tech setup, from the data storage to the communication platforms, and provide a scorecard to understand your upgrade success rate — and your main priorities to target.

We provide a remote two-week engagement for an invaluable scorecard of insights, and an executable strategy to strengthen your law firm tech pulse from there. Legal tech pulse checks start from USD$10,000. Book your firm’s by emailing [email protected].

[ Artificial Lawyer is proud to bring you this sponsored thought leadership article by inCite Legal Tech. ]