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Artificial Intelligence and Its Impact on the Legal Field

By Madison Nixon, City Bar Policy Department Intern

Generative artificial intelligence (“AI”) will have an impact on 44% of current legal tasks. This alarming prediction was presented by panelists at the New York City Bar Association’s first ever Artificial Intelligence Institute on June 10, 2024 [available On-Demand here]. The Institute consisted of four panels composed of lawyers, technologists, government officials, former judges and other experts, to provide clarity on AI and guidance on how the legal field can move forward utilizing it. As AI continues to develop and its capabilities become more mainstream, law students (like myself), new lawyers and, indeed, the whole profession need to understand what it is, what it can do and what experts believe it will do in the future.

What Exactly is AI?
AI has a different meaning depending on whom you ask. There are different types of AI, and some that have already been around for years (Google Translate, for example). The baseline definition of AI is that it is technology that equips computers to emulate human behavior. Some of the panelists described AI as not intrinsically intelligent, but simply well trained on data and content provided to it. What AI generates is not necessarily accurate, and the outputs must always be checked for errors (or “hallucinations,” as they are called). AI can also be biased based on the content on which it is trained.

Client Confidentiality and AI
Because AI users provide data to AI tools, use of such tools, like ChatGPT, by legal professionals raises concerns about client confidentiality. Some AI models will retain information while others will not. For example, according to a panelist from LexisNexis, the LexisNexis Lexis+ AI feature doesn’t use client data to train their model. When the user’s session ends, the documents are purged. According to another panelist, however, if using something such as the free version of ChatGPT, the attorney’s prompts and logs will be retained and used for future training. It is important that attorneys prioritize their clients’ confidentiality, be aware of the type of AI they are using, and be mindful of what kinds of information they are providing to the AI tool.

How Does AI Affect Law Students?
As a current law student, I attended the Artificial Intelligence Institute because I was interested in seeing how AI will impact my career and how I can best be prepared. During one of the panels, an audience member asked what will happen to work done by junior associates and law students if AI becomes an alternative that is available 24/7 and can produce immediate results? The consensus from the panelists was that even under that scenario, AI has limits and lawyers will still be needed because AI can’t replace the many judgments attorneys must make, and attorneys will still have ethical obligations to make sure the tools they use, such as AI, are accurate. “Humans aren’t being erased,” said a panelist, and law students/new lawyers will still be of value.

One challenge for lawyers is that Artificial Intelligence will mean greater efficiencies and shorter production times. AI can assist in producing first drafts, discovery requests, contract templates and other legal communications. However, AI should never be relied on to produce the final product without any human oversight. At the end of the day, AI isn’t negotiating, making substantive decisions about what is or is not important in discovery, or making human connections. AI can be helpful to the legal profession when utilized properly, but the human element is still crucial.

At the end of the Artificial Intelligence Institute, I asked some of the panelists what they suggested that I, as a law student, should do to prepare myself with respect to AI as I enter the legal field. I received one unanimous response: embrace it. Embrace artificial intelligence, learn how to use it now, as a student, rather than shy away. Understand what it can and cannot do, and get comfortable with it. Avoiding AI will do more harm than good. It isn’t going away – and it is only going to keep advancing.

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Madison (Maddie) Nixon is a rising 2L at Indiana Maurer School of Law and is currently interning at the New York City Bar Association (Summer 2024).

To view this program On-Demand, click here. To view the full library of On-Demand and upcoming CLE programs, including other programs on Artificial Intelligence, click here.