Never Fear, AI Guidance for Lawyers is Near
You may have noticed that generative AI tools like ChatGPT are making waves lately. However, in their current iteration, when these tools are used by legal professionals, it’s not necessarily smooth sailing.
If you’re worried about ethics and security, rest assured you’re not alone. The promised efficiencies of these tools are tempered by genuine concerns about the accuracy of results, confidentiality, and ethical compliance. Since this technology is both new and rapidly changing, implementation in law firms is a challenging task, and innovative lawyers are forced to navigate the uncharted waters of generative AI in the absence of clear guidance.
Fortunately, help is on the way. In a number of different jurisdictions, plans have been announced that are designed to address many of the thorny issues presented by generative AI, either through the issuance of ethics opinions or the formation of committees dedicated to tackling these challenges.
For example, in July the New York State Bar Association announced that it was forming a task force to address emerging issues related to artificial intelligence. The Bar explained that the task force would “address the benefits and potential dangers surrounding artificial intelligence and make regulatory recommendations for this powerful and fast-developing technology.” The task force plans to “develop policies for bar association adoption and suggest legislation to govern effective and responsible AI use.”
Similarly, a few weeks later, the Texas State Bar also announced the formation of a workgroup that would “examine the ethical pitfalls and practical uses of AI and report back within the year.” The ultimate goal is for the workgroup to provide recommendations on the policies related to AI that should be implemented by the state bar.
Finally, in May, the California Bar created a committee tasked with examining the impact of AI on the profession. The goal is to draft an advisory ethics opinion for release in November that would address the risks and benefits of using AI in legal practice and provide guidance on how to do so while complying with ethical obligations.
In the meantime, because generative AI technology is evolving so fast, you may as well learn as much as you can about it. That way, when the time comes, you’ll be able to make an informed decision about whether and how to use it in your law firm.
The guidance offered by the various state bars will help, but you’ll need to have a foundational knowledge of AI technology in order to make an educated choice that complies with the findings and determinations of the appropriate committee.
This course of action not only makes sense, it also ensures compliance with the duty of technology competence.
And if you’re really interested in a deep dive into ChatGPT and best practices for using this tool in your law practice, there’s a course available that is offered by New Orleans attorney and legal technology consultant, Ernie Evenson. It’s a free course called “Using ChatGPT in Modern Practice.”
So whether you’re a legal tech geek or a curmudgeon, never fear: the technological and ethical assistance that the legal community has been seeking will arrive soon. While you’re waiting, embracing these changes and preparing for the new regulatory landscape is a great way to chart an innovative course while continuing to serve your clients effectively. The intersection of law and AI is a journey, and with the right roadmap, it’s one that promises to be both rewarding and impactful.
Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney, author, journalist, and the Head of SME and External Education at MyCase legal practice management software, an AffiniPay company. She is the nationally-recognized author of “Cloud Computing for Lawyers” (2012) and co-authors “Social Media for Lawyers: The Next Frontier” (2010), both published by the American Bar Association. She also co-authors “Criminal Law in New York,” a Thomson Reuters treatise. She writes regular columns for Above the Law, ABA Journal, and The Daily Record, has authored hundreds of articles for other publications, and regularly speaks at conferences regarding the intersection of law and emerging technologies. She is an ABA Legal Rebel, and is listed on the Fastcase 50 and ABA LTRC Women in Legal Tech. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.