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AI Update: Equal Justice Under Bots—Artificial Intelligence and Legal Practice

Artificial Intelligence (“AI”) is quickly becoming a part of everyday life.  As AI-based technologies advance, even law firms are harnessing them to improve the efficiency and caliber of their work – despite law firms’ reputations for being old-fashioned, traditional, and perhaps a tinge out-of-date.  The reasons are obvious: AI-based tools can help reduce lawyer time spent on routine tasks that would otherwise add greatly to the expense of increasingly complex matters (thereby enabling lawyers to deliver more value at less cost to their clients).  In addition, these tools can help attorneys meet the increased discovery and research demands wrought by the digitization of communications, documents, and other pieces of information.

However, an equally important reason for utilizing AI may stem not from these practical considerations, but rather from the ABA Model Rules: in a comment to the Duty of Competence under Rule 1.1, lawyers are required to “keep abreast of changes in the law and its practice, including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology.”  (emphasis added).  In other words, as technology and its many benefits advance, lawyers may have an increased ethical obligation to consider the benefits and risks of incorporating such technologies into their practice—just as they did in the wake of the proliferation of computers and digital legal search engines.

In an upcoming webinar on Wednesday, September 12th, from 1 PM-2 PM ET, my colleague, Ted Voorhees, and I will explore the novel ethical considerations and liability risks presented by the incorporation of AI into legal practice.  The key questions our presentation will consider and analyze include:

  • What types of AI technologies are being used in legal practice, and what does the future look like?

  • What are the “rules of the road” for using AI as part of legal practice?  How can the ABA Model Rules, which predate such technologies by decades, come into play?  What about e-discovery rules?

  • What can go wrong when using AI, and what are the sources of legal risk as a result (from traditional tort and warranty liability laws to legal malpractice claims and state bar sanctions)?

Although robots may never be able to replace lawyers completely, the legal industry will certainly be disrupted by AI tools as they shift the allocation of legal work and invite closer attention to the core, non-delegable capabilities of lawyers.  With appropriate planning and careful consideration of the ethical and legal risks involved, law firms can adjust to this shift in a way that advantages both lawyers and clients.

© 2018 Covington & Burling LLP

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About this Author

Jadzia Pierce, Covington, data and cybersecurity attorney
Associate

Jadzia Pierce is an associate in the firm’s Washington, DC office. She is a member of the Data Privacy and Cybersecurity and Communications and Media Practice Groups.

Before joining the firm, she was the Privacy, Surveillance, and Security Fellow at the Center for Democracy & Technology.

Representative Matters

  • Advises multinational companies on cyber and data security incident preparedness, including the development of incident response plans, conducting of security gap analyses, and determination of regulatory obligations and litigation...
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