How important are recent developments in AI?
Bill Gates says that in his lifetime he has seen two developments that struck him as revolutionary. The emergence of AI is one of those. According to Bill, the development of AI is:
“as fundamental as the creation of the microprocessor, the personal computer, the Internet, and the mobile phone. It will change the way people work, learn, travel, get health care, and communicate with each other. Entire industries will reorient around it. Businesses will distinguish themselves by how well they use it.”
I guess we better keep an eye on it.
How will AI impact legal services?
There are those (I’m looking at you, Professor Stephen Gillers, Elihu Root Professor of Law Emeritus at NYU) who feel that it heralds the end of legal services as we know it because there are all kinds of things that AI can do that might previously have been viewed as the ‘sole preserve’ of lawyers.
Jordan Furlong points out (correctly, in my view) that a lot of what lawyers get paid for is at risk:
“[…] for most lawyers, our entire professional functionality is rooted in our expertise with knowledge and our fluency with words. We understand the law, we apply the law to facts, and we analyze the results in order to reach an actionable conclusion. We create untold types of documentation and correspondence, with language precisely arranged, deployed, and manipulated to obtain for our clients the results they want.
That’s not all we do. It’s not all we can do. But is sure as hell is the vast majority of what our billable time is spent on. And now someone has gone and invented a Knowledge and Words Machine that does all of those things, in hardly any time at all. Why would we not be alarmed?”
Thankfully (as far as I’m concerned) I don’t fit into the ‘most lawyers’ bracket. My practice focuses on litigation, advocacy, witness handling, client care, and oral advocacy. While AI can certainly make a good stab at these, I can’t see it ever becoming proficient enough to replace little old me (these could be my ‘famous last words’!).
Jack Shepherd argues (persuasively) that AI cannot replace lawyers quite so seamlessly:
“I see the huge promise of emerging AI tools, and I am far from being an ‘AI skeptic’. Indeed, I see great potential in the new generation of AI unlocking the significant blockers in knowledge processes, some of which are outlined above. However, I refuse to let the excitement of new technologies distance me from the realities of how this technology is going to work on the ground. I do not believe we should be talking about AI ‘replacing lawyers’ or automatically doing multi-faceted and complicated processes for them. It’s simply not that easy.”
As Shepherd also puts it, ChatGPT is designed ‘to produce sentences that make sense, not legal advice that makes sense‘.
Will AI be regulated?
Yes, eventually. THe EU is working on an ‘AI Act‘ and EU lawmakers are trying to agree on rules.
However, as reported by Reuters, 22 March 2023:
“…a 5-hour meeting on Feb 13 resulted in no resolution and lawmakers are at loggerheads over various facets of the Act, according to three sources familiar with the discussions.”
The pace at which new tools are being developed and released makes regulation a real challenge.
Further reading / listening
- Bill Gates, “The Age of AI Has Begun“
- Jordan Furlong, “Law Has A Magic Wand Now“
- Jack Shepherd, “AI and legal knowledge management: how can it help?“
- Qin, Zhang, Zhang, Chen, Yasunaga, Yang, “Is ChatGPT a general-purpose Natural Language Processing task solver?“