Economic Policy
• Published
August 6, 2023

Balancing Efficiency and Ethics: The Case for AI in Law

Written by
Pritika Patel

When switching from traditional websites to artificial intelligence sites such as Casetext and CARA A.I., the average attorney would save anywhere from 132 to 210 hours of legal research per year (National Legal Research Group). When nearly fifteen hours per week (LexisNexis) are spent on legal research — what firms deem one of the most time-consuming tasks (Bloomberg Law) — the need for more effective and efficient research tools has become more evident than ever before. 

The advent of artificial intelligence and its subsequent incorporation into our daily lives has been subject of intense debate. Proponents of the invention argue that its assimilation will increase precision and productivity in the ways we search for information and generate ideas. By automating repetitive tasks, businesses can streamline operations and allocate human resources to more complex and creative endeavors. For instance, chat boxes have written home descriptions for real estate agents (CNN), job descriptions for hiring managers, and sales pitches for marketers. Moreover, AI’s ability to process vast amounts of data and perform intricate calculations with high precision enhances decision-making processes (New York Times).

On the other hand, opponents argue that artificial intelligence has the potential to produce biased or inaccurate information if given the wrong data (Marketing Artificial Intelligence Institute). AI models, particularly those based on machine learning, learn patterns and associations from large datasets. If the training data contains inherent racial, gender, or socioeconomic biases, the AI model can inadvertently perpetuate these biases in its decision-making processes (Brookings Institute). For example, if an AI system is trained on historical hiring data, which may already reflect existing biases in hiring practices, it could favor candidates from specific demographic groups while discriminating against others. Similarly, in the criminal justice system, biased historical data may lead an AI-based predictive policing system to unfairly target certain communities, exacerbating existing inequalities (The Security Distillery).

These debates only increase in depth as they approach specialized areas, such as the legal field. With the potential to revolutionize legal practice, AI technologies are increasingly being integrated into various aspects of the legal profession, from the most basic forms of research to complex decision-making. However, while integrating artificial intelligence in the legal sector presents promising opportunities, it has also raised various ethical considerations and potential challenges. As the legal landscape evolves, it becomes crucial for attorneys, lawmakers, and stakeholders to grasp the intricacies of AI’s incorporation and harness its potential effectively. Although there are multiple risks associated with introducing artificial intelligence into the legal system, if used ethically and in compliance with regulations, its benefits far outweigh its risks.

Successful use of artificial intelligence can vastly improve legal efficiency. With AI-driven automation, time-consuming manual tasks like searching for documents, conducting thorough research, and generating invoices become much easier to manage, granting attorneys more flexibility and free time to spend on other work. For example, AI can be used to quickly produce initial drafts of motions to be filed in court, citing the relevant case law, advancing arguments, and rebutting (as well as anticipating) arguments advanced by opposing counsel (Brookings Institute). This knowledge can be crucial to overwhelmed attorneys who may not have the time or the resources to manage large caseloads effectively.

Thus far, AI in the legal technology industry has historically been more “extractive,” meaning it has been generally used to crawl and pull information from an extensive database; however, with recent developments in “generative” AI, legal technology is beginning to not only pull information but also create new, original content (LexisNexis). 

An advantage AI can offer by also producing new information is by helping attorneys better predict legal outcomes. Accurately assessing the likelihood of a favorable judgment can allow an attorney to decide whether to take a case on contingency, invest in experts, or advise their clients to settle. Companies such as Lex Machina already use machine learning and predictive analytics to draw insights on individual judges and lawyers, as well as the legal case itself, to predict behaviors and outcomes (Business Law Today). After feeding an appropriate prompt, attorneys may use the facts and other pertinent information about the case they are building as well as the opposing counsel’s argument to estimate the chances of a court victory.

Furthermore, there are AI tools that can create contracts, using the set of parameters attorneys feed them (Lawgeex). Such form contracts allow companies to have a consistent set of agreements no matter the legal matter. Moreover, the tool can be set up as “self-service” for clients so that the client can log onto the system, select the type of contract they need, enter in a few variables, and the system will produce a standard form agreement ready to go. Attorneys also have the autonomy to decide their involvement in the creation process and edit the contract accordingly (Thomson Reuters). 

Attorneys may use AI to produce lawsuits and initiate litigation. This will make it much easier for law firms to expand services to lower-income clients. Certain AI generators are responsible for drafting 1000-word lawsuits and more advanced legal motions (Brookings Institute). AI generators equipped with natural language processing capabilities can analyze relevant case law, statutes, and legal documents to draft comprehensive and tailored lawsuits. These AI systems can then quickly identify and integrate legal precedents and arguments to ensure the resulting documents meet the necessary legal standards.

Of course, with these new uses of artificial intelligence, concerns about its reliability and ethics arise. Ensuring the accuracy and reliability of AI-generated documents is paramount, as errors or misinterpretations could have severe consequences for clients. Additionally, attorneys must remain vigilant in overseeing and reviewing AI-generated content to guarantee that it aligns with the client’s specific needs and objectives.

In the end, however, when used responsibly and securely, the incorporation of artificial intelligence has great potential to revolutionize the legal field. Unnecessary time-consuming tasks can be eliminated, making a more efficient and effective system. This could help the numerous backlogs our current legal system faces, leading to faster and more reliable decision-making. By harnessing AI’s capabilities, law firms can not only optimize their operations but also enhance their ability to provide comprehensive and substantial legal representation to clients.

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