Lately I have been inundated with news and information about Artificial Intelligence. It seems that all the legal news is talking about these days, and will not stop talking about, is how AI is going to change my life. Forever. In major ways. As the ABA recently noted,
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is changing everything everywhere all at once in ways that lawyers cannot afford to ignore
That is a tall order. But it is also completely accurate. It is not just the magnitude of the possibilities but the speed at which all things AI related are being explored, discussed, developed, implemented and debated. We are only beginning to peel back the onion on this one. But forgive me if I feel just a bit like this train is moving very, very fast.
As much as I, personally, would love to just not have to deal with Artificial Intelligence at this (or any other) moment, the Rules of Professional Conduct tell me otherwise. We lawyers must provide competent representation. Competency “requires the legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness and preparation reasonably necessary for the representation.” ABA Model Rule 1.1.
Competency includes maintaining “technical” competency. In 2012, the ABA voted to amend its informative comments to Model Rule 1.1 (Comment 8) to include explicit guidance on lawyers’ use of technology: :
To maintain the requisite knowledge and skill, a lawyer should keep abreast of changes in the law and its practice, including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology, engage in continuing study and education and comply with all continuing legal education requirements to which the lawyer is subject.
Like it or not, we all have an obligation to consider “the benefits and risks associated with” relevant AI technology in our practice of law. As we previously discussed in, “What They Didn’t Teach You in Law School: The Ethical Duty of Technical Competence“, lawyers may be challenged to maintain competency in areas such as e-discovery, cloud computing, and the risks of social media.
That all seems a bit like child’s play compared to what (I am hearing) about AI, its risks, its capabilities, and its future.
The problem is there is just so much information. Where does a lawyer start?
ABA Task Force and Guidelines for Artificial Intelligence
The ABA has made it a significant part of its mission to provide programming and information to the legal industry on Artificial Intelligence. On August 8, 2023, ABA President Mary L. Smith announced the formation of “an AI task force that will take a comprehensive look at the use of AI and make recommendations on the impact on the practice of law, access to justice and laws and regulations.”
At its February 2023 mid-year meeting, the American Bar Association adopted Resolution 604, which urges “organizations that design, develop, deploy, and use artificial intelligence (“AI”) systems and capabilities to follow certain guidelines” while urging all branches of government to follow guidelines in legislation, legal decisions, and standards relating to AI. The ABA Resolution provides guidance for developers and operators of AI systems and capabilities to assess three fundamental issues with AI: accountability, transparency and traceability. The Resolution states that:
. . . in the context of AI individual and enterprise accountability and human authority, oversight, and control is required and it is not appropriate to shift legal responsibility to a computer or an “algorithm” rather than
to responsible people and other legal entities.
By focusing in the context of AI on the key issues accountability, transparency and traceability, passage of this Resolution will help mitigate the risks that can result through implementation of AI systems and capabilities and enhance the use of AI in a trustworthy and responsible manner.
New Online Content on AI For Lawyers
Additionally, some publishers are creating web-based course content on artificial intelligence in the practice of law.
For example, if you want to jump start your knowledge on a particular aspect of AI–or just get an overview of what is available–check out Law.com, which has an Artificial Intelligence CLE Course Catalog. The catalog currently features 74 offerings on the application of Artificial Intelligence in the practice of law.
Legal industry service providers are fawning over one another to provide content. Thomson Reuters’ recent acquisition of Casetext, a California-based provider of technology for the legal industry, will provide “AI driven legal research” Thomson describes its “commitment to invest $100 million annually on AI capabilities, the development of new generative AI experiences across its product suite, as well as a new plugin with Microsoft and Microsoft 365 Copilot for legal professionals.”
AI Legal Assistants
AI promises to revolutionize many things about the way lawyers currently operate. There are many legal assistant tools that promise to do things better for lawyers. Without endorsing (or even knowing much about) any of these products, some tools that appear to be gaining in popularity include:
Legal Robot – An AI-driven platform that assists with drafting a wide variety of legal documents, from contracts and agreements to privacy policies and terms of service. It also provides clear explanations of legal terms, which is said to make it easier for non-lawyers to comprehend.
DoNotPay – An AI-powered chatbot that purports to simplify handling various legal issues, such as consumer rights, parking tickets, and small legal disputes. The interface provides step-by-step guidance for drafting letters, complaints, and navigating common legal matters.
Latch – An AI-driven law practice management program to automate law firm operations, including document automation, time tracking, billing and client communications. It also automates repetitive tasks and provides suggestions for document drafting and case management.
OneLaw.ai – An AI-based legal research platform using natural language processing to understand and analyze legal documents, provide quick access to case law and authorities, and automated case summarization.
PatentPal – An AI powered platform that provides patent drafting, searching, analysis, and monitoring. Its algorithm is said to help users identify relevant patents and analyze strengths and weaknesses. It also provides visuals and analytics to improve understanding of patent landscapes.
LawGeex – An AI-based contract review platform to help analyze contracts against pre-defined criteria and provide recommendations. It also includes collaboration tools for multiple users to track changes, add comments, and assign tasks.
Artificial Intelligence, for better or worse, is becoming engrained in the fabric of the legal services industry. Lawyers have an ethical obligation to ensure they stay updated on the ever-changing and growing landscape of rules, tools and resources relating to AI and to understand the benefits and risks of the use of artificial intelligence in their practice.