An Update on Artificial Intelligence and the Legal Industry – Part II

An Update on Artificial Intelligence and the Legal Industry – Part II

There’s been a story making the rounds in national media about a lawyer in Canada who included non-existent case law generated by ChatGPT in motion materials. To be clear, the Court specifically found that the lawyer had no intention to deceive or misdirect the Court in the circumstances. But the lawyer was ordered to be personally liable for the costs incurred by the opposing side as a result of having to look into the non-existent case law.

On October 26, 2023, I uploaded a blog portending the dangers of over-reliance on artificial intelligence tools, specifically focusing on ChatGPT. In my penultimate paragraph, I wrote, “Put simply, while the District Court recognised that artificial intelligence can play a role in the legal industry when appropriately and responsibly utilised, there are clear limitations to this tool. Lawyers ultimately remain responsible for their work-product and cannot simply shift all of their duties to artificial intelligence and call it a day”.

I had written that blog in a somewhat satirical tone, but looking back I now have some concerns that it belied the grave consequences artificial intelligence can have for the unsuspecting user of this nascent technology. In that category, I have also included myself. So I think it bears repeating: we have to be responsible for our own conduct. We have a professional and ethical duty to our clients to be competent in our practice of law. Clients are not paying us by the hour to be technology dilettantes and there can be no substitute for the professional expertise we provide.

Look, I’m in no way faulting the legal profession for not being constantly up to speed on the latest and greatest. I used to laugh at my mom when her Facebook status updates were tofu cheesecake recipes she was trying to search on Google (They were fantastic. Thanks, mom.). And now, as a millennial, I struggle to comprehend what “rizz” even means.

My point is it took a worldwide pandemic to drag a centuries-old institution kicking and screaming out of the dark ages to finally embrace e-mail as an accepted method of service. Now that we’ve reached this stage, I think it’s incumbent upon us to be familiar with the technology we use as best as we can. We need to critically evaluate the benefits and risks when we decide to integrate technology and have it assist us in delivering professional expertise. If you use technology without vetting the work-product, you do so at your own peril.

The Law Society of Ontario has not yet issued guidance on the use of artificial intelligence tools, but several provincial law societies have: the Law Society of British Columbia, the Law Society of Saskatchewan and the Law Society of Alberta. All three sets of guidance underscore that lawyers are expected to have a sufficient level of understanding of the technology they’re using to the standard of a competent lawyer.

I don’t think we’ll be seeing the end of these stories anytime soon, unfortunately.

Thanks for reading.

Aaron Chan

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