Published on January 3, 2024, 10:11 am

The Debate Over Generative Ai In The Legal Profession: Opportunities, Risks, And The Need For Human Judgment

The use of generative AI in the legal profession has sparked a debate surrounding its accuracy and effectiveness. Despite some pushback from those in the field, experts believe that the integration of generative AI tools is an unstoppable trend that will continue to gain momentum.

Adam Ryan, VP of Product at Litera, predicts that generative AI will become more prevalent in the legal profession in the coming years, similar to its adoption in other global industries. He emphasizes that not utilizing these game-changing tools will put firms at a significant disadvantage compared to their counterparts who leverage generative AI’s speed, accuracy, and efficiency.

While professionals like Ryan acknowledge the technical efficiency of AI, convincing the general public of its merits can be more challenging. US Chief Justice John Roberts released a report examining the potential risks and impact of generative AI in law. In this report, Roberts expressed some sympathy for the view that human adjudications are fairer than what machines produce, despite their flaws.

One concern raised by the report is the issue of “hallucinations,” where generative AI tools present false information as factual. These hallucinations could potentially undermine their effective use in legal practice. Roberts highlighted cases where lawyers cited non-existent court cases due to AI-induced hallucinations. The report stresses that while AI has its benefits, it is still far from being reliable in this aspect.

However, both Ryan and Dan Hauck, CPO at legal software company NetDocuments, assert that lawyers will ultimately retain agency and control over any tools used in their daily activities. They explain that lawyers need to remain diligent and uphold their ethical obligations when utilizing generative AI technology. Hauck compares reliance on AI models with relying on assistants or paralegals who may provide inaccurate information; ultimately, the responsibility lies with the lawyer.

It’s important to note that while there are potential risks associated with using generative AI, there are also numerous opportunities for its application within the legal field. For example, GPT-4, a generative AI model, achieved an impressive score on the bar examination, outperforming the average human test taker.

Roberts acknowledges both the awe and angst surrounding the news of generative AI’s capabilities in the legal profession. He explains that while AI can automate tasks related to collating data and specific case details, it still lacks the nuance required for certain aspects of law. Roberts argues that humans are more trusted than machines when it comes to drawing accurate inferences based on factors like body language or hesitation in a courtroom.

Hauck emphasizes that foundational AI should be seen as a tool to produce drafts of various legal documents, with human input and decision-making remaining crucial. Having experienced human professionals evaluate AI output and thoughtfully implement AI throughout their firms is essential for achieving optimal results.

In summary, generative AI offers tremendous potential within the legal profession. While there are concerns about its reliability and accuracy in certain areas, experts maintain that responsible use of these tools alongside human judgment will enhance efficiency and effectiveness in legal practice. As this technology continues to evolve, it’s clear that both humans and AI will play complementary roles in delivering high-quality legal services.


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