So what does an article on early spreadsheets have to do with legal real estate issues?
The real estate lawyers equivalent of paper and pencil maths is reporting on leases. it crops up whenever a multi-let building is sold or refinanced and it involves very little law but a lot of data - names, addresses, dates, numbers and summaries of the critical steps in processes such as assignment, rent review, repair and forfeiture. The sort of stuff that could be presented in table format not unlike a spreadsheet.
There are programs available now which will do this automatically by "reading" the lease using OCR and then summarising the terms using AI without outputs which can be text or data. These systems are finally balancing the effect of word processing and laser printers that allowed us to draft and print 125 page lease behemoths for what are little more than corner kiosks in shopping centres. The AI processes are not perfect but from what I have seen they are good enough.
Some people are afraid of this intrusion of technology into legal practice but I for one am delighted. I didn't do a three year law degree, a year of Law Finals, two years as an articled clerk (age!!) and decades practising to spend my time recording the start and end dates of lease terms or whether the repair covenant say "tenantable" or "good and substantial".
What this will mean is that I can start focussing on being a lawyer; deciding what actually matters rather than data trawling. We don't know yet whether this will mean more jobs or fewer but as this article points out AI may actually create jobs. It offers a new way of working and that opens up the prospect of new services that can be provided to clients and new ways of packaging the services that we already deliver.
And in the future when I get one of those 125 page tree murderers I hope that I will be able to spend my time looking at the bits that actually matter and only those bits.
In 1978, a Harvard Business School student named Dan Bricklin was sitting in a classroom, watching his accounting lecturer filling in rows and columns on the blackboard.