Robots have been slowly creeping into the workplace for a while now. They’re used in agriculture, and in a variety of manufacturing settings, among other functions. In fact, most of us aren’t that surprised anymore to hear about robots working in highly mechanized environments. But what about their role in skilled labor workplaces?

Scholars like MIT’s Andrew McAfee have already noted the increasing use of technology to handle complex, highly skilled jobs that used to only be performed by a human being. Take tax preparation for example, where a $40 piece of tax preparation software has replaced many of the professionals who got advanced degrees in a field they thought they’d have a monopoly on forever.

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Well it looks as though lawyers might be the next up to watch out for their jobs. A robot called “Ross,” made by IBM just got hired for use at the law firm Baker & Hostetler, which maintains a bankruptcy practice. But you can’t really blame them for the interest when you consider the skills that Ross has up its electronic sleeve.

Ross reads and understands language, so you can ask it questions about legal research for which it can quickly return the answer. Because it is a robot, Ross also learns each time someone interacts with it, making it faster and more knowledgeable each time. Even better, Ross converts complex legal findings into plain English for the user and stays up-to-date on the latest cases that might impact the overall research project. These are activities that an army of junior lawyers have been known to do in the past. How’s that for a first day on the job?

Bankruptcy lawyers make an average salary of $113,000 a year, but one can’t help but wonder if younger workers in particular might begin to see lower salaries if robots become the norm around the law office.


Header Image: GERARD JULIEN / Staff (Getty Images)