In a narrowly-decided 3-2 decision, the 9th Circuit Appeals Court, meeting in San Francisco and with jurisdiction in the nine westernmost U.S. states (and Guam), today ruled in favor of appellant Lisa Jacobson (Countess) Radford. Radford is an Associate Professor of Law at Stanford Law School whose right to practice law by means of a LawBot avatar capable of dispensing state-of-the-art legal counsel for $5/hour had been denied earlier this year in the case of California Bar Association vs. Radford. Or, as the case was more popularly known in the legal community, "California vs. the LawBot."
Countess Radford had worked closely with several graduate students in Stanford University's Computer Science Department to develop and program a highly-evolved chatbot powered by a grid computing technology and capable of conversing with clients. The chatbots could also research the law, formulate legal strategy and generate and file legal briefs. When linked to appropriate output devices, the chatbots could even argue a case in court on behalf of clients.
However, Radford had been denied the right to use this automated LawBot system in the litigation and criminal practice work she was doing outside of her teaching position at the West Coast's most highly regarded law school. Rumors were that the California Bar Association were worried that its members' high fees could be undercut by an automated, virtual, interactive, speech-recognizing and speech-synthesizing avatar available to thousands of potential clients online for a nominal $5/hour fee. A case held in the Federal District Court in San Jose condemned the use of this system because of its automation, virtualization, and commoditization of a process in which its members have a substantial and on-going emotional and financial stake.
The closely reasoned decision of the court was not yet available online, but is sure to be the subject of considerable attention in law schools, other jurisdictions, and wherever lawyers gather to discuss the evolution and future of their profession.
The victorious Countess Radford, who is married to Sebastian Lowell Radford, a political scientist at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government and the scion of the Cumbrian Radfords in the U.K. and with whom she shares a long-distance, Internet-mediated relationship, was not available for comment on the court's decision in her favor. However, her spokesavatar, Virtual Countess Radford (a.k.a. AvaLisa) told TheSpoof.com: "The decision made by the widely-respected and frequently-precedent-setting 9th Circuit Court of Appeals represented a victory for non-lawyers everywhere. This is yet another demonstration that being a graduate student in the Computer Science Department at Stanford is often a ticket to re-shaping the world while having a chance to make unconscionably large sums of money."
"Of course," concluded the ebullient spokesavatar, "most of what lawyers do also involves making deals and manipulating their previously-assembled network of connections from law school, previous places of employment, and on-going socializing in the legal community. LawBot can't do either of those things. Yet."