Former Atlanta attorney Rich Merritt reports he’s been replaced by an algorithm
2:16 pm, April 9th, 2012
Rich Merritt reports that a contract gig doing e-discovery just ended after the client replaced Merritt and other attorneys poring through thousands of pages of documents with “an algorithm that can do a better job than 250 of us could do.”
Merritt made a stir locally when he published his coming-of-age memoir, “Secrets of a Gay Marine Porn Star,” while working as a contract attorney at Powell Goldstein (now Bryan Cave). He moved to New York soon after, and for the last few years he’s supported himself as a contract attorney while pursuing his writing aspirations.
“Secrets of a Gay Marine Porn Star” tells Merritt’s story of accepting himself as a gay man on his journey from a small town in South Carolina to the Marines to a career as a lawyer. He published a novel, “Code of Conduct,” based on his eight years serving in the Marines after the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” law took effect, and is currently at work on his second novel.
“When I gave up my lucrative job on the partnership track, in exchange for a stress-free day job to support my writing habit, I never expected to be put out of work by mathematics,” Merritt writes on his blog. “Sophisticated search algorithms can tell if a document is responsive to a request more thoroughly and much more quickly than person reading the document. And an algorithm’s eyes don’t get blurry.”
Computer programs that can search electronic documents more effectively than human lawyer eyes will have effects up the legal food chain, Merritt predicts, since fewer contract and staff attorneys reviewing e-discovery mean fewer billable hours for the firms employing them. Ultimately, he speculates, this could mean the crumbling of the American skyline–but you’ll have to check the blog post to learn why.