Skip to Content
Search Site Menu

HPS Legal Alert: J.D. vs. AI: What Are the Ethical Considerations?

By Debra P. Klauber.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is coming to a law firm near you. In fact, if you consider the technology being used by Westlaw and Lexis, it is already here. Likewise, just in case you haven’t heard, the latest versions of these chatbots are capable of passing the Multistate Bar Exam as well as law school final examinations, so the time has come for us to properly consider how these advancements can, and should, be utilized in the practice of law. 

The Good

AI is unquestionably helpful when it comes to e-discovery and document management, taking tasks usually performed by entry-level paralegals and associates, and completing them more efficiently and more accurately. More recent developments also streamline the legal research process and the preparation of both contracts and legal documents. We have no choice but to adopt these new technologies and use them to our advantage and, more importantly, to the advantage of our clients. In fact, since lawyers have an obligation to continue to remain proficient and competent in the practice of law, it would probably be unethical to disregard these advancements. 

The Bad: Inaccuracies

However, AI also brings with it several ethical considerations. First and foremost, improper or inaccurate information is still a problem with much of this technology. As it mines the accessible data to answer our inquiries, it may not give the most updated or relevant information in an ever-changing legal world. Left unchecked, this could result in violations of ethical rules requiring attorneys to utilize competence and diligence in the practice of law. It could also violate our duty to utilize candor toward the tribunal and truthfulness in statements to others. Just as we would properly check the work performed by a young associate, it is critical that we confirm the accuracy of the information provided by this technology. Otherwise, we risk making claims and contentions that have no merit, not only impacting our credibility, but raising valid ethical concerns.

The Bad Part II: Confidentiality

Confidentiality is another issue that comes into play. If we are sharing confidential client information with a chatbot, that data often becomes available to other users. If that confidential information can be tied to a specific user, then it can be tracked back to an identifiable law firm or lawyer, which risks exposing client confidences. Keeping inquiries or searches general in nature, and holding back client-specific details, can reduce this risk. There are also plug-in versions of the artificial intelligence that can be used to search a law firm’s own proprietary databases, instead of using outside programs which share information with others.

The Bad Part III: Plagiarism

Plagiarism is also a challenge since these bots plumb data from anywhere they can find it. As the end-user, we might not know who originally created that information or whether it is copyrighted or otherwise protected.

Key Takeaways

While this new technology has the potential to increase the efficiency and accuracy of our legal work, there are several things it cannot do and several problems that might occur when using the technology.  At least for now, we still need human oversight in order to properly analyze the information that is provided to determine its accuracy. And we still need our creativity and judgment in order to determine whether that information applies to a given case. The human touch is still vital in the practice of law, but our focus and skills will need to evolve as we spend more time evaluating the information, rather than finding and organizing it!

If you have any questions about the ethical uses of AI technology, please contact Debbie Klauber, or any of our Haliczer Pettis & Schwamm legal team.