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Tech’s rise shows need for lawyers, says ASIC chair

In remarks delivered overnight, the chair of the corporate watchdog said the judgement of legal professionals is more important than ever in an age of emerging technologies like artificial intelligence.

user iconJerome Doraisamy 17 April 2024 Corporate Counsel
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In delivering the Ninian Stephen Law Program Oration last night (Tuesday, 16 April), hosted by the University of Melbourne Centre for Artificial Intelligence, Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) chair Joe Longo (pictured) proclaimed that the more technology advances, “the more human judgement can be seen as a defining feature of legal practice”.

The preconception that lawyers and the broader legal system struggle to keep pace with tech developments, Longo mused, doesn’t do justice to the myriad ways that practitioners have moved to adapt to the new world.

While technology has undoubtedly become a necessary tool in a lawyer’s arsenal, it is not the only one, he suggested.


“The more technology advances, the more it shows that lawyers are going to be with us for some time,” Longo deduced.

The extent to which technology influences the law and legal practice will ultimately depend on lawyers themselves, he opined. To this end, it is in the interests of lawyers and their clients for the former to stay “tech-smart”.

However, Longo added, the relationship between lawyers and technology should not flourish “through any kind of mechanical thinking”.

“A machine will always beat a human at being mechanical. And so it should,” he said.

Instead, lawyers must employ critical skills in the face of the advent of emerging technologies, Longo advised, such as curiosity and willingness to learn, a healthy amount of scepticism, and application of judgement.

“These are skills that mark out a good lawyer irrespective of any questions about technology. But they are needed more than ever now in our evolving technological environment,” he said.

“Much of what is routine, linear, or mechanical, can – and will – be replaced by something that excels in the routine, in the linear, in the mechanical.”

“Ultimately, as AI advances to equal human prediction and analysis, it only highlights the greater need for that uniquely human skill: judgement.”

What this means, Longo surmised, is that a lawyer’s interaction with technology “should be proactive, strategic, and bold”.

“Lawyers need to be able to use technology – including AI – in order to actually do their job and discharge their duties. By being proactive, strategic, and bold in their interaction with technology, lawyers can solve problems, not just identify risks,” he suggested.

Looking ahead, Longo concluded, “we must be careful with generative AI, but not afraid of it”.

“Technology has, in one form or other, always been here – and the history of law is very often in lockstep with the history of technological development. Sometimes, that means the law helps shape our understanding and experience of technology – other times, it’s technology that changes the legal profession,” he reflected.

Being a lawyer means understanding those changes, Longo warned.

“Just as the public expects ASIC to be a bold regulator, I believe it also expects the legal profession to be bold in the face of technological advances – particularly if those advances could, eventually, offer greater ‘democratisation’ of access to justice,” he submitted.

“At the end of the day, this means all of us in the legal profession asking the right questions to make sure we understand the benefits – and the harms.”

“While technology is very much a necessary tool in that toolkit, being a lawyer also requires responsible oversight of that technology. In a word, it requires judgement.”