Embrace AI

Don’t embrace the bogeyman!

Embrace AI

♫ Just pretend he isn’t really there.
You will find that Bogeyman will vanish in thin air...

— Music and Lyrics by A. Lowry / R. D. Brown­smith,
performed by Henry Hall & His Orchestra.

We are entering the “Hype Cycle” of artificial intelligence (AI).

ChatGPT — Open AI’s natural language AI platform is the fastest growing app — ever. It achieved 100 million users within two months. Facebook took 4.5 years and Twitter five to reach that point.

How powerful is AI? Gartner sees generative AI becoming a general-purpose technology with an impact “similar to that of the steam engine, electricity and the internet.” The hype will subside, but the impact of AI will only grow as more innovative applications are found.

AI’s reach includes lawyers — AI Tools for Lawyers: A Practical Guide by Daniel Schwarcz & Jonathan H. Choi provides practical and specific guidance on how to effectively use AI systems in legal research and writing.

No question that the AI juggernaut is coming at lawyers, full force.

Unite.ai lists the “Eight ‘Best’ AI Legal Assistants” as of January 2024. Here, AI helps you draft legal documents, assists with practice management, document automation, time tracking, billing, client contact, legal research, legal document analysis, patent and search analysis, contract review and more.

You are in fact most likely already using AI. If AI is working properly, you are not even aware it is working in the background of common applications. In 2023, Microsoft announced 365 Copilot, powered by GPT-4, which will generate documents, emails, presentations and more in Office 365. Others are working on similar integrations.

AI has been used extensively by lawyers for some time now. Relativity, the e-discovery software, states: “From technology-assisted review to powerful analytics and visualizations, Relativity has been a leader in artificial intelligence for over a decade.”

When cloud computing and social media were introduced, there was a “chill reflex” that had led to many legal regulators and others warning lawyers of the potential ethical minefields and professional discipline awaiting those who would venture to use these in their firms. Of course, today we now realize that both technologies can be comfortably incorporated into practice with the reasonable observance of professional obligations (see the LSBC’s Cloud Computing Checklist, for example, of which the writer was an author). This “chill reflex” unnecessarily slowed down the implementation of these and other technologies in law firms.

The Law Society of BC has issued “Guidance on Professional Respon-sibility and Generative AI.” Similarly, the Courts in Canada have issued practice directions on the use of AI in court submissions. These publications are welcome but I urge regulators and courts to not introduce their own “chill factor” by overdoing the risks on the reasonable and professional use of AI in practice. We don’t need lawyers being afraid to try this important and ground-breaking technology. Moreover, if AI is as important to the future of practice as I believe it will be, it may be malpractice if a lawyer fails to use AI when appropriate.

I would urge lawyers, regulators and courts to participate in forums such as the Task Force on Responsible Use of Generative AI for Law at MIT. They are formulating and developing principles and guidelines on ensuring factual accuracy, accurate sources, valid legal reasoning, alignment with professional ethics, due diligence, and responsible use of Generative AI for law and legal processes.

Certainly, ethics and professional responsibility must always be observed. But thoughtful implementation will make the bogeyman vanish into thin air.

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