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Opportunities and legal risks of AI

13 September 2023
In a world rapidly transformed by technology, the legal profession is not immune to the sweeping changes brought about by artificial intelligence.

Both the promise and the peril of emerging technologies

Recognising both the potential and the drawbacks of artificial intelligence (AI) in legal practice, the American Bar Association (ABA) has taken a proactive step by establishing the ABA Task Force on Law and Artificial Intelligence. This initiative aims to delve into the multifaceted aspects of AI and its impact on the legal sector.

Announced by ABA President Mary L. Smith, the AI Task Force seeks to address what she calls "both the promise and the peril of emerging technologies."

The task force has outlined a comprehensive agenda, including:

1. Risk Assessment: One of the primary concerns is the various risks posed by AI technology. These risks encompass bias, cybersecurity vulnerabilities, privacy issues, intellectual property infringement, and the potential misuse of AI to spread misinformation or disinformation.

2. Generative AI: As generative AI systems gain prominence, the task force aims to explore developing issues surrounding these technologies.

3. Access to Justice: The task force will investigate how AI can be harnessed to improve access to legal services and justice, particularly for underserved populations.

4. AI Governance: AI's rapid evolution demands a closer look at the role of laws and regulations in overseeing AI applications within the legal sector.

5. AI in Legal Education: Recognising the need for lawyers to adapt to this new technological landscape, the task force will consider ways to integrate AI into legal education.

Chaired by Lucy L. Thomson, an attorney and cybersecurity engineer based in Washington, D.C., the AI Task Force comprises legal professionals and experts with deep knowledge of technology and AI. Special Advisors, including individuals like Michael Chertoff and Ivan Fong, will provide insights into the legal and technological aspects of AI. Thomson has emphasised the multidisciplinary nature of the group – which aims to provide practical information to help legal practitioners navigate the complexities of AI. 

The ABA recognises the transformative potential of AI in various industries, including law, and aims to address the associated legal and ethical challenges. The AI Task Force builds upon previous ABA resolutions and initiatives related to AI governance and transparency, ensuring that lawyers are informed about AI's ethical responsibilities and its potential impact on confidentiality and access to justice.

As the legal community grapples with the advent of AI, recent research sheds light on the sentiments and expectations of legal professionals – for some their greatest hope is that AI will boost productivity, followed closely by the belief that AI will free up time for them to focus on higher-value tasks.

Kriti Sharma, Chief Product Officer for Legal Technology at Thomson Reuters, highlights the transformative potential of AI in the legal profession. She believes that AI has the power to reshape traditional career paths, skill sets, and work focus while promoting diversity and access to legal services. In essence, AI is seen as a catalyst for change that will enhance the legal profession's ability to deliver value to clients.

As the ABA Task Force embarks on its task to navigate the AI landscape in the legal field, the legal community stands at the cusp of a transformative era. By addressing both the promises and risks of AI, it seeks to ensure that the legal profession remains at the forefront of change, adapting and prospering in the digital age.

If you wish to seek further advice on any of the issues discussed please contact Olivia O'Kane.

Further Reading