Even (Some) Law Firms Agree Robots Are The Next Big Thing

Posted: Jan 31 2014, 3:20am CST | by , Updated: Jan 31 2014, 3:26am CST, in Technology News


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Even (Some) Law FirmsAgree Robots Are The Next Big Thing

I am proud to say that I helped found the Robot Block Party in Silicon Valley. Now in its fifth year, the event brings together industry, academia, and the hobbyist community to demo robots in celebration of National Robotics Week. We held the first one in Paul Brest Hall at Stanford Law School. The second, third, and fourth Robot Block Parties took place nearby at the Volkswagen Automotive Innovation Lab (where Stanford University develops driverless cars). Each event drew at least a thousand visitors.

I just received the invitation for this year’s Robot Block Party. The venue? WilmerHale, an international law firm.

This is not as anomalous as it may seem. Thanks largely to Stephen Wu, the American Bar Association has a whole committee on Robotics and Artificial Intelligence. The law firm Ropes & Gray sponsored a law and robotics conference I chaired last year at Stanford. And just the other day I had a lovely conversation with Garry Mathiason, a senior partner at Littler Mendelson, the largest employment law firm in the world. Littler has an entire robotics practice group (as does Cooke, Kobrick, & Wu).

Why are law firms so interested in robots? The very short answer is money. Law firms are businesses. They can see the ascendance of this technology and understand the competitive advantage of developing expertise in the legal and policy issues that attend it. That is largely why I teach a course on robotics, law, and policy at the University of Washington.

I was pretty young in the 1980s and, while even then a fan, I did not exactly witness the robotics craze first hand. But I’m willing to go out on a limb and say that, despite the media and investment frenzies that reportedly attended the period, law firms probably did not form robotics practice groups. (Please correct me if I’m wrong.) That a population as conservative as corporate lawyers are embracing robotics as a transformative technology is, on my view, a rather interesting sign of the times.

Source: Forbes

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