Monday, June 17, 2024

SC chief: Lawyers will stay relevant despite automation of legal services

Supreme Court (SC) chief justice Alexander G. Gesmundo said lawyers will always stay relevant even with the digitization of professional services owing to the very nature of their work as officers of the court.

SC chief justice Alexander G. Gesmundo
Photo from SC

Speaking at the joint regional convention of the Eastern and Western Visayas Regions of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) at Waterfront Hotel in Cebu City, Gesmundo challenged the members of the legal profession to “confront developments in information technology that particularly impact on traditional routine legal tasks and activities.”

Gesmundo said that since the digital age has dawned on the legal profession, there is now a trend towards new models of legal service delivery that are more technology-driven than “labor intensive,” such as in drafting contracts, gathering data, and procuring license from administrative bodies, among others.

He added that online legal advice and dispute resolution, much like those provided by consumer-based Internet companies, have apparently reduced legal services to a mere commodity in the virtual marketplace.

Despite these modernizations, which the Supreme Court has taken into account in its Strategic Plan for Judicial Innovations 2022- 2027 (SPJI), the chief magistrate said that lawyers will remain relevant owing to their “primary role as officers of the court and the nature of their dynamic relationship of inter-cooperation with the Judiciary.”

Gesmundo said that the practice of law will still be important even if traditional tasks become fully automated.

He stressed: “Conflicts never cease in human society and courts exist to resolve them in the light of particular facts and laws in force at the time… For as long as governments cannot function without a judicial system, the legal profession stays since counsels and advocates have an indispensable role in the administration of justice.”

Gesmundo particularly pointed to the prosecution and defense of criminal cases as tasks that cannot be standardized in a computer program.

“Lawyers may be outperformed by computer applications involving routine tasks and those which dispense basic information on provisions of the law and procedural rules. But [such computer applications] cannot argue for a client’s cause or evaluate evidentiary values in any given case. Indeed, for as long as adjudication involves a process of human reasoning in the application and interpretation of the law, the legal profession will never fade into the virtual future,” he said.

Gesmundo also stressed that the interface of technology and justice systems involves more than the infusion of technology into court processes.

“As advocates and counsels, you are first and foremost, officers of the court, whose duty it is to defend your client’s cause by fair, licit, and honorable means only. This implies honesty and good faith in gathering and presenting evidence before the courts to enable the judge to consider all the facts and the law (even if not favorable to your side) and to render fair and correct decisions,” he said.

He also issued a reminder to lawyers that “…all these innovations, even the latest technology, will not guarantee that justice will be served on litigants. For the quality of justice that is dispensed by the courts largely depends on the services of lawyers.

“And while the rendition of legal services may have transitioned online, lawyers must bear in mind that they remain strictly bound by their oath and the ethical rules of the legal profession,” he concluded.

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