Productive Use of Artificial Intelligence in a Law Firm

Man looking at life size robotAs a legal practitioner, you’re likely acquainted, at least to some extent, with the concept of generative artificial intelligence, or generative AI. This advanced form of artificial intelligence has the capacity to produce text, images, or other media in response to given prompts. Essentially, generative AI operates by repeatedly asking a fundamental question: “Given the text so far, what should the next ‘word’ be?” Despite its recent surge in popularity, artificial intelligence has a long-standing presence, influencing diverse industries in various capacities.

For instance, in the healthcare sector, generative AI is instrumental in medical image analysis, drug discovery, personalized medicine, and the generation of synthetic data for training and testing algorithms. The financial industry leverages generative AI for algorithmic trading, risk assessment, fraud detection, and portfolio management. In manufacturing, it contributes to product design, optimization of manufacturing processes, and innovative solutions to engineering challenges. Furthermore, in education, generative AI plays a role in creating educational content, developing adaptive learning platforms, and providing personalized learning experiences.

Even though the integration of AI, exemplified by the implementation of ChatGPT in 2022, has become a standard practice in various domains, there seems to be a growing reluctance to embrace AI in the legal profession. Contrary to the perceived taboo, AI serves as a valuable tool that can significantly enhance efficiency and save both time and money when implemented correctly.

Despite the potential benefits, there exist several misconceptions regarding the use of generative AI in the legal field. One prevalent myth suggests that incorporating tools like ChatGPT into legal practice could lead to immediate disbarment. However, this assertion is unfounded. While it is true that AI, including ChatGPT, can generate inaccurate information with confidence, commonly referred to as “hallucinations,” it is essential to recognize that such occurrences are inherent to all large language models (LLMs). Caution is advised against relying on ChatGPT for legal research or drafting legal documents, as demonstrated by the case of former Trump attorney Michael Cohen who cited fake court cases generated by AI. Nevertheless, when used as a tool in appropriate ways, AI emerges not as a looming Cyberdyne threat but as a valuable asset for legal professionals.

Beyond legal research, generative AI proves versatile in supporting various daily activities. For instance, it excels at summarizing lengthy articles, providing concise overviews of salient issues from news articles worldwide. Given the time constraints faced by attorneys, leveraging ChatGPT to summarize multiple articles efficiently could be a time-saving strategy.

Concerns regarding confidentiality emerge as a significant consideration when contemplating the use of generative AI in legal practice. In California, attorneys are bound by strict confidentiality rules, outlined in California Rule of Professional Conduct 1.6 allowing disclosure of a client’s confidential information without informed consent when the attorney reasonably believes it is necessary to prevent a criminal act likely to result in death or bodily harm. It’s important to note that OpenAI’s ChatGPT is not designed for confidentiality, and any client information inputted into the system may be utilized for learning, growth, and potentially shared with others. While inputting confidential information into an open-source AI would be a breach of confidentiality, a simple solution exists—avoid putting confidential information into an open-source AI. You can utilize ChatGPT for non-confidential items such as blogs, social media posts, white papers, upcoming events, Inns of Court scripts, and website posts. Even certain legal templates that lack confidential information can be efficiently generated by ChatGPT. However, it remains the responsibility of the user to review the document generated, add necessary clauses or phrases, and ensure it is ready for public display. The time-saving potential of using AI to generate an initial template for these documents is significant, reducing the time investment from one hour to just 10 minutes.

Another application of AI, particularly in the realm of contract law, is its role as a summation tool. By requesting AI to summarize and subsequently generate a contract clause specific to a client’s needs, attorneys can capitalize on the technology’s capabilities. For example, asking AI to summarize the best California venue clause and then crafting a California venue clause based on its summation can result in a highly tailored and effective legal document. The clause generated by ChatGPT reads as follows:

“Any legal action, suit, or proceeding arising out of or relating to this agreement shall be exclusively venued in the state or federal courts situated within the jurisdiction of California. The parties expressly consent to the personal jurisdiction of such courts. In the event of litigation, the prevailing party shall be entitled to recover reasonable attorney’s fees and costs. This venue clause establishes California as the exclusive and agreed-upon jurisdiction for the resolution of any legal matters pertaining to this contract.”

In conclusion, while AI presents valuable support for legal professionals, it is imperative to recognize that human oversight and legal expertise remain indispensable. Attorneys must diligently review and finalize all documents produced by their firm. Any support provided by AI is precisely that—a form of support. The attorney retains the responsibility to adhere to California Rules of Professional Conduct, including oversight of anything produced. It is the attorney’s obligation to ensure that the AI tool aligns with ethical standards, client preferences, and the specific legal nuances of each case. AI should be regarded as a tool designed to enhance efficiency and productivity, not as a substitute for legal judgment and expertise. The seasoned legal practitioner remains irreplaceable, with AI serving as a valuable time-saving ally.