The role of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in many industries has become an increasingly hot topic for quite some time. As a practicing legal practitioner, I have been hearing for more than a decade that (AI)is going to reduce, if not eliminate, the need for attorneys. And, it is obvious that AI is here to stay. We also have to admit that AI is becoming more advanced and sophisticated than ever before.
AI can mean a lot of different things to different people. One definition of AI states, “Artificial intelligence, or AI, refers to computer software and systems that don’t just do tasks they’ve been programmed for in advance—they actually learn as they go, improving their performance through feedback. These programs can quickly learn to complete data-intensive tasks that were previously relegated to bored and weary humans. By recognizing patterns in the relationships between words or data points, computers learn how to identify relevant information, recognize mistakes and spot inconsistencies—all faster, and usually better, than humans do” (“7 ways artificial intelligence can benefit your law firm,” September 2017, americanbar.org).
AI is powerful technology, easily recognizing patterns through data input, and it can help make tedious or highly detailed tasks faster, more accurate, and more productive for humans. However, AI has not replaced attorneys thus far, nor do I see AI replacing myself or my legal compatriots any time soon. In fact, we have seen an increase in the need for attorneys during the same period that AI has proliferated.
The question for us humans must be, what do we do about AI? Where should its use be allowed and encouraged and where should we attempt to hold our ground? This is a very pertinent question across many industries and professions, particularly in the context of complicated legal services. There are many potential benefits in regards to efficiency and productivity that could be gained through the use of legal AI. However, old-fashioned, human lawyers are still essential to ensure accuracy and fairness, as well as valuable judgment and analysis that is necessary in the practice of law. AI technology is certain to evolve rapidly, but we humans might still have a few qualities that make us worth keeping around for now.
As it stands, AI struggles to understand the many complexities that are present in state and federal law. ChatGPT, for instance, has been hit or miss when it comes to preparing legal motions. It often seems to misunderstand various statues, misstate the law, and incorrectly reference case law. ChatGPT’s track record for matching the performance of a human with regards to crafting legal documents leaves much to be desired. Most troublingly, AI will state bogus facts and wrong answers with complete confidence, unaware of the consequences of putting forth falsehoods. This instance is called “hallucination,” and it poses perhaps one of the most significant issues with AI (“Hallucination (artificial intelligence),” 2023). Your average lawyer, on the other hand, is highly self-conscious of the repercussions of being incorrect, often hedging information and statements in line with their level of self-confidence (Furness & Mallick, 2023).
One of the most glaring limitations with AI in any legal setting has to do with the decision-makers as determined by law. Human judges and juries are crucial components in any legal context, and failure to consider this context would be detrimental in many cases. We must also be careful about the potential bias that could be inherent in firms that decide to rely on the use of AI. It is important to note that attorneys are often set to benefit the most when a case goes to trial. If the AI is set up with this fact in mind, it risks working against and harming a client who might be best served by settling a case instead. At the moment, AI is unable to match or replicate human intuition that is valuable at all points in the legal process.
Humans can offer a level of judgment and analysis that AI is currently unable to replicate in the context and practice of law. However, the legal field would be mistaken to completely ignore or dismiss the potential usefulness of AI when it comes to simpler tasks. For instance, although an artificial intelligence attempt at a complaint or brief might be lacking in accuracy and detail, it could still serve as a sort of outline or first draft for the project at hand. AI might be able to provide a template on which a human can build nuance, tailoring and correcting the document as is appropriate in the context of the case at hand. There is certainly an opportunity for increased productivity and efficiency through the use of AI, if those employing it are careful and considerate about its limitations.
In conclusion, AI is not sophisticated enough to replace lawyers and completely take over the legal field regardless of those that have let their imaginations run wild. Programs such as ChatGPT are not quite there yet when it comes to a sufficient understanding of the law and how to apply it. However, AI can still produce some significant benefits to firms that are able to use it correctly. Although it might not produce a perfect motion or brief on the first attempt, an AI effort could serve as a useful starting point for a human to improve and refine. For instance, Stout Law, PLLC sometimes implements some use of AI technology, such as ChatGPT, in a limited capacity. We recognize that this technology can provide useful insight into a legal problem that we always refine. Stout Law is always working to create better value through reduced costs to our clients. All in all, we may breathe a sigh of relief. AI is not going to replace us in its present form but should instead serve as an important tool to improve productivity and efficiency.
Furness, A., & Mallick, S. (2023, January 23). Evaluating The Legal Ethics Of A ChatGPT-Authored Motion. Retrieved from Law360: https://www.law360.com/articles/1567985/
Wikipedia contributors. (2023, June 7). Hallucination (artificial intelligence). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 17:27, June 7, 2023, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Hallucination_(artificial_intelligence)&oldid=1158960518
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