Published on November 17, 2023, 8:20 am

California Bar Takes Steps To Regulate Lawyers’ Use Of Artificial Intelligence In Legal Practice

The California Bar has taken a significant step in providing guidelines for lawyers using artificial intelligence (AI) in legal practice. These new regulations position California at the forefront of the ethical use of AI technology within the legal profession.

Erika Doherty, Program Director for the bar’s Office of Professional Competence, emphasized that this approval makes it the first AI tool specifically recognized by a regulatory agency for lawyers. The benefit of this recognition is that lawyers now have guidance available to them. However, Doherty also highlighted that since AI is an evolving technology, these guidelines will need to be continually updated.

The newly approved best practices guidance encourages lawyers to be transparent with their clients about their use of generative AI and suggests they refrain from charging hourly fees for time saved by utilizing these tech tools. It also emphasizes the importance of human oversight in examining AI-generated outputs to ensure accuracy and avoid biases.

It is worth noting that these guidelines serve as an intermediate step in providing clarity on this emerging technology while further rules and regulations are under consideration. The professional conduct committee responsible for drafting the guidance called on state lawmakers and the California Supreme Court to reevaluate unauthorized practice of law based on generative AI.

While generative AI has tremendous potential in closing the access-to-justice gap, there are concerns about relying solely on AI-generated outputs, as they can provide false information. To address this issue, other state bars, like Florida’s ethics committee, are also working on creating guidelines for lawyers using AI systems. The proposed opinion by the Florida Bar recommends obtaining client consent before employing AI tools and emphasizes human oversight to maintain ethical standards.

Ultimately, the recognition by regulatory agencies like the California Bar and ongoing efforts across different states demonstrate a proactive approach to harnessing AI’s power within legal practice while ensuring ethical use and protecting client interests. As technology continues to advance, it is vital that guidelines evolve accordingly to keep pace with new developments in generative AI applications.

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