Mr Edwards challenges the commonly held view that as a growing number of legal functions become automated or performed by 'smart' machines, there will be an inevitable downturn in lawyer headcount. On the contrary, he believes that modernising the legal industry is key to ensuring the sustainability, and even growth, of jobs in the sector.
'As the profession modernises, the amount of legal services will increase. We're going to end up with more lawyers, in my view,' he said.
Mr Edwards, who holds a PhD in artificial intelligence, was addressing a predominantly young audience at an event organised by the Society of Asian Lawyers. Listeners were reassured that the prospect of robots or AI 'replacing' trained legal professionals was not the imminent threat some have made it out to be.
'Only a lawyer can unpick the complicated legal issues and provide the right legal advice. You're not going anywhere. You're not going to be replaced by AI,' said Mr Edwards.
Instead, he believes that technological developments will help expand the legal services market by breaking down barriers to new clients and opportunities. Technology can also help bring down access costs and level the playing field between regulated and unregulated providers, he argued.
'We want to unlock that latent market of people and small businesses that you keep hearing about, of people who need legal help but don't get it. We're bringing new people into the market,' he said.
Source: Legal Futures