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AI AND THE LAW
Artificial Intelligence (AI) typically describes computers and other similar systems that seek to replicate human cognitive functions.
As society is becoming more efficient, the use of AI in everyday life is becoming more prevalent. According to PwC, between 2017-2037, over 7.2 million existing jobs will be replaced by AI. An example is how many jobs have been lost to machines, such as at supermarket checkouts.
Such AI developments are becoming increasingly utilised in the legal arena, for better or worse.
An explanation of current issues
Computerised humans can no doubt perform human functions much quicker. This has been especially useful in the legal industry, where AI technology has already assisted with due diligence, contract review and compliance. Such tasks are incredibly repetitive and often prone to human error due to the high volume of information that must be searched for; however, automation has increased productivity in this field and significantly improved efficiency and accuracy. Therefore, the presence of AI in the legal industry can no doubt be said to be beneficial.
That said, this year, there have been some questions about AI’s effectiveness in the law. Chat Generative Pre-trained Transformer, colloquially known as ChatGPT, is an AI language model. It processes requests inputted by humans and formulates responses. For instance, it can compose written content, including social media posts, essays and emails.
Whilst this is useful in saving lawyers time when drafting correspondence, issues have arisen where lawyers have sought to use the tool to draft legal documents. For example, this year, personal injury lawyer Steven A. Schwartz, whilst representing a client, found himself in trouble after relying on ChatGPT to assist him in drafting a court document as his filed document contained six cases that did not exist. All six of these cases had been provided by ChatGPT. The lawyer had enquired whether the suggested cases were accurate, which the chatbot confirmed in the affirmative. Only upon the opposing party reviewing this document was the error noticed. Ultimately, the lawyer and his law firm were fined $5,000, a costly punishment.
This story provides strong evidence of the limitations of AI when it comes to legal advice. It is somewhat fanciful to say one can rely wholly on AI when drafting legal documents, which, as evidenced above, must always be subject to review to catch errors. However, does AI save that much time if the time saved from drafting a document has to be recycled to proofread the AI-generated document with a fine-tooth comb?
Although AI, in the eyes of the law, is still somewhat of an unchartered territory, it has become increasingly prevalent in everyday life, from automatic cars to Alexa. We can now open our phones with our faces, and platforms like Amazon tailor their algorithms to show recommendations specifically for you.
There is no doubt AI has thus made our lives more convenient, but with this, there is an argument that society will become increasingly less sociable and unhealthier. Further, and more importantly, developments in AI are likely to change the face of the law.
Take tort law. If you are in a car accident that was not your fault, as it stands, you may be able to obtain compensation from the driver. Now, imagine you were hit by an automated vehicle. Who would become the defendant then? Would it be the manufacturer? The software developer? Or the vehicle’s registered owner, despite the fact he or she was not driving the vehicle?
Such questions would create chaos for legal practitioners in establishing who the defendant is. So, whilst introducing AI vehicles onto roads could result in a decrease in road traffic accidents by 80-90%, as currently almost half of fatal crashes are caused by substance consumption, distraction and fatigue, is the introduction of such vehicles worth it, if it will provide chaos to the legal system?
Further, all those mentioned earlier in the crash scenario would have varying degrees of responsibility for the accident. This could lead to an unimaginable increase in product liability cases and general personal injury claims. This would generate more business for specialised law firms, but the courts could become inundated with essentially baseless claims.
Ultimately, there have been some successes in legal practice, with Lord Justice Birss, a Court of Appeal judge, admitting to using ChatGPT to help draft a section of a case ruling. We must be wary when using AI to provide legal advice. Arguably, such a tool is best suited to the more manual and repetitive areas of the law, such as due diligence for large firms, rather than providing advice for factually complex cases.