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AI for Lawyers

No profession is more resistant to change than the legal profession. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is poised to disrupt it in several significant ways:

  • influencing when the public hires an attorney to solve their legal problem
  • transforming how the public finds an attorney or law firm
  • changing how legal services are provided
  • revolutionizing how legal research is conducted
  • enhancing the drafting of legal documents
  • improving the prediction of legal outcomes
  • shaping how opposing counsel and the courts use AI to make decisions

For many common legal problems, people might be tempted to use AI tools to analyze the facts, spot issues, perform legal research, or draft legal documents, especially when hiring an attorney is cost-prohibitive. The extent to which AI tools will replace legal services traditionally provided by lawyers is difficult to predict. What is certain is that self-represented litigants using ChatGPT-type tools will have trouble navigating the American judicial system.

Law firms seeking a competitive edge are scrambling to embrace AI to attract tech-savvy clients and improve their productivity. Some law firms implement AI tools without fully understanding the problems of maintaining confidentiality and protecting sensitive data.

Law schools are slowly incorporating AI and technology courses into their curricula. Lawyers are learning about data analytics, machine learning, and the ethical implications of AI throughcontinuing legal education (CLE) programs.States are starting to implement bar rules or advisory opinions to address AI-created problems in the legal profession.

Legal Chatbots and Virtual Legal Assistants

In 2024, legal chatbots and virtual assistants are becoming commonplace. These AI-powered tools can be used to:

  • respond to routine client inquiries
  • schedule consultations and appointments
  • collect information from the client with online intake forms
  • organize the client's documents and other information related to the case
  • automate billing for legal services and costs
  • perform legal research
  • provide predictive analytics for legal outcomes
  • draft legal documents from contracts to pleadings

By handling these routine and repetitive tasks, law firms might improve client service and reduce administrative burdens on their staff. Handling these tasks might allow lawyers to engage in the more complex and creative aspects of practicing law.

AI for Drafting Legal Documents

Some legal problems might be solved without an attorney. Companies like LegalZoom, ZenBusiness, or Rocket Lawyer use generic or boilerplate legal forms that can be customized by the user. These companies cannot provide legal advice. Instead, they only offer document templates and guidance on filling them out. The forms offered tend to focus on the following types of issues: 

  • Business Formation and Operations
    • Corporation formation documents (Bylaws recommended to be consulted with an attorney)
    • Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs)
    • Simple Business Contracts
    • Buy-Sell Agreements
    • Independent Contractor Agreements
    • General Warranty Deeds
  • Personal Legal Documents
    • Last Will and Testament
    • Power of Attorney
    • Healthcare Directive
    • Living Trust
    • Real Estate
    • Residential Lease Agreements
    • Promissory Notes

Some of these forms might create significant legal problems that could have been avoided by hiring an attorney in the first place. AI tools might fix some problems while dramatically compounding other.

Enhanced Legal Research Using AI

One of the most time-consuming tasks for lawyers is legal research. By automating routine research tasks, AI might allow lawyers to focus on higher-value activities, such as strategy development and client counseling.

AI tools leverage natural language processing (NLP) to understand the context of legal queries. Although AI might eventually automate routine research tasks by providing accurate and relevant case law, statutes, and legal precedents, it has a long way to go. Companies providing AI-powered legal research tools include:

  • Paxton Legal AI
  • CallidusAI
  • Spellbook AI for Contracts
  • LexisNexis
  • Westlaw Edge
  • Casetext
  • Bloomberg Law
  • Harvey AI
  • Law.co
  • Evisort
  • LawGeex
  • Kira Systems
  • Lever AI

Document Review and Automation in Litigation

AI algorithms can quickly analyze vast amounts of documents, identify relevant information, and organize the data. For this reason, AI promises to revolutionize document review for all types of litigation. For example, AI-driven contract analysis tools can streamline the contract management process by identifying and extracting key clauses, comparing terms against predefined standards, and suggesting revisions.

Predictive Analytics for Legal Outcomes

Predictive analytics is another area where AI is making a significant impact. By analyzing historical case data, AI can predict the likely outcomes of legal proceedings. This information is invaluable for lawyers advising clients on whether to settle or proceed to trial. Predictive analytics can also help law firms better allocate resources by prioritizing cases with higher chances of success during complex litigation.

AI in Litigation and E-Discovery

AI can help with E-discovery, the process of identifying, collecting, and producing electronically stored information (ESI) for litigation, by quickly sifting through large volumes of ESI, identifying relevant documents, and uncovering hidden patterns that might be crucial for a case. In addition, AI-powered tools can assist in trial preparation by analyzing courtroom data, identifying trends in judicial behavior, and suggesting optimal strategies for presenting a case.

Ethical Considerations and Challenges

Despite the benefits of using AI in the legal profession, ethical considerations and challenges must be examined. For example, AI algorithms can potentially compound existing problems with bias and unfairness. For example, if the data used to train AI systems is biased, the outcomes generated by these systems can also be biased. To help guard against this bias, AI tools should be transparent and regularly audited.

Problems with AI in the Legal Profession

The biggest problems for AI in the legal profession revolve around ensuring data privacy and security. AI systems require access to sensitive and confidential information, and lawyers will have difficulty implementing security measures to protect this data.

Regulations such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) currently provide little protection.

Bar Rules for Attorneys Using AI

Some states have begun implementing bar rules or advisory opinions related to attorneys and law firms using AI. For example, on January 19, 2024, the Florida Bar issued Ethics Opinion 24-1. While the advisory ethics opinion is not binding, it recognizes that lawyers may use generative artificial intelligence in the practice of law while still complying with the bar rules.

The opinion explains that to comply with Florida Bar rules, attorneys using AI must:

  • develop policies and practices to verify that the use of generative AI is consistent with the lawyer’s ethical obligations
  • ensure that the confidentiality of client information is protected when using generative AI
  • researching the program’s policies on data retention, data sharing, and self-learning
  • remain responsible for their work product and professional judgment
  • provide accurate and competent services
  • avoid improper billing practices such as double-billing
  • comply with applicable restrictions on lawyer advertising, including whenGenerative AI chatbots communicate with clients or third parties
  • include a disclaimer indicating that the chatbot is an AI program and not a lawyer or employee of the law firm
  • maintain technological competence in the field of AI
  • educate themselves regarding the risks and benefits of new AI technology