Rapid development of technology has become one of the most popular topics recently. Experts and journalists are actively discussing how many professions will disappear because of the mass introduction of artificial intelligence, while large companies declare that they will not hire specialists without modern technology expertise. SPbU Associate Professor Vladislav Arkhipov, expert on intellectual property, information technologies and telecommunications, adviser at Dentons, an international law firm, told us whether neural networks were able to replace lawyers and notaries and how lawyers of the digital era were being trained at St Petersburg University.

 There is quite a lot of repetition work in the legal practice — for example, preparation of  claims for simple disputes is in fact limited to filling in the bank details of the parties and the  basic commercial terms. One does not often require to have some kind of superpower for a  qualitative analysis of information: rational thinking and formal logic are the only things  needed here. In these cases a neural network may perform human tasks. "A lot of my  colleagues would be only too happy to delegate the routine part of their work to artificial  intelligence," said Vladislav Arkhipov.

 At the same time, the expert draws attention to two problems that will not allow to replace  living lawyers with robots in the foreseeable future. The first one is ethical. "The results of a  court trial or even an official check that may lead to a dismissal are of great importance to a  person. In many cases a neural network can analyse the facts and make a verdict. Yet, will  everyone like such a judge? This is a controversial issue. By the way, that is why personal  data legislation contains a number of limitations for cases when legally significant decisions  are made as a result of automated processing of data only," the lawyer notes.

 The second problem is that jurisprudence is far from being a routine profession. In most  cases legal specialists require a creative approach and understanding of the specific features of interpersonal communication. And in this field artificial intelligence is far from perfect. "Laws and documents that seem to be the basis for the profession of a lawyer are in fact only a "superstructure" over human relations, a tool for their evaluation and regulation. Oddly enough, rational thinking and mathematical methods (and this is what the work of a neural network is based upon) are not universal. They will never be able to completely replace human involvement where charity and justice are required," SPbU expert believes.

Therefore, under the new conditions, lawyers who are competent in all state-of-the-art technologies and can at the same time think creatively and offer non-standard solutions will achieve success and be of the greatest demand. Mankind is steadily moving towards the further development of big data technologies, "the Internet of things" and artificial intelligence. All of that is shaping the present-day social reality. Vladislav Arkhipov notes that the new technologies are undoubtedly changing the world for the better and can optimise the work of lawyers by giving them enough space for professional development. 

It is this approach that is used to train lawyers at St Petersburg University. "Rote learning is not our priority at all. Our students learn legal argumentation, acquire the ability to creatively approach the solution of complex problems and, of course, study law in the context of modern high technologies," the expert says. "By the way, a student science club for intellectual property and information technologies law has been working for more than five years now. New trends and their relation to law are fiercely debated at its meetings. For example, this year we had at least two meetings devoted to neural networks."

In the SPbU curriculum, the traditional areas of law go side by side with quite a number of new subjects. During the "Information Systems" course read by a professional programmer bachelor students get a general idea of ​​modern information technologies in the context of jurisprudence. "Legal Regulation of Relations in the Internet" allows second-year students to study this problem in the Russian and foreign contexts and also touches upon the legal aspects of multiplayer online games, virtual worlds and e-sports.

Master students guided by leading legal practitioners deal with more complex issues. An example thereof is the "Information Technology in Jurisprudence" course read by Victor Naumov, partner of the Dentons international law firm, co-author of the much-debated "draft law on robotics". The course "Public and Private Law in the Digital Age" is based on the principle of legal futurology. It is aimed at finding an answer to the question of whether changing society under the influence of technology can change the law itself.

"In one of the classes we model a society of the future with global registration of all citizens' actions using cryptographic tools and a distributed blockchain database, and we study what will change in jurisprudence when such a unique tool of objective recording of evidence is introduced," said the author of the course Vladislav Arkhipov.