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Artificial Intelligence in the Legal Industry

By Matthew J. Franson posted 04-17-2023 12:09


Artificial Intelligence (AI), by its very nature, is improving at a rapid pace. For example, Open AI’s latest iteration of its widely discussed AI tool, ChatGPT-4, passed all sections of the Uniform Bar Exam, whereas the previous version, ChatGPT-3.5, failed. There is little doubt that AI will be used throughout the legal industry, though the jury is out as to how ubiquitous it will become and how widely accepted it will be. What it has the potential to do is significant, including handling many of the daily tasks of legal professionals. Prompting ChatGPT with the question, “How can you be used in the legal industry?” produced the following, perhaps a bit optimistic, result:

1. Legal Research: I can assist lawyers and legal professionals with legal research by quickly scanning through vast amounts of legal documents, caselaw, and other relevant materials. I can also provide summaries and insights to help legal professionals make more informed decisions.
Contract Review: I can help legal professionals to review contracts and identify any potential issues, such as ambiguous language or clauses that may be unenforceable.
Due Diligence: I can help legal professionals to perform due diligence checks by searching through public records and other sources of information to identify potential risks or liabilities.
 Case Analysis: I can help legal professionals to analyze caselaw and other legal precedents to build stronger arguments and better understand the strengths and weaknesses of a particular case.
Document Generation: I can assist with the generation of legal documents such as contracts, briefs, and pleadings, by providing templates and assisting with the drafting process. 

The most controversial of these is case analysis. While it seems feasible for AI to create documents from its vast database, to check common terms in contracts and other documents, even identifying relevant cases, analyzing those cases is another issue entirely. Asking it specific legal questions produced mixed results. Some answers were correct, though arguably too broad to be useful, while others, as this article points out, were “flat out wrong.”

Regardless, it would be a big mistake to write the technology off as a fad or unreliable at its core. True, in the coming years there are and will continue to be fringe cases that will grab the media’s attention, such as companies creating “robot lawyers,” but beyond that, we will continue to see an evolution of AI. Indeed, Westlaw and Lexis have already integrated AI into their arsenal, with many more companies to follow. This article in the ABA Journal identifies numerous companies leveraging ChatGPT’s technology into products that claim to do everything from content and contract creation to summarizing documents. Casetext also recently unveiled a program that it promises will “delegate tasks like legal research, document review, deposition preparation, and contract analysis to an AI.”

What AI is, what problems it can and cannot solve, and where the technology is going is complicated. In his 2019 article, “Artificial Intelligence and Law: An Overview,” Harry Surden, University of Colorado Law School, does an excellent job describing what AI and machine learning entail and how it can impact the practice of law.

It is safe to say that ChatGPT will not entirely take the place of good, old-fashioned, legal research and real-live-person lawyering any time soon. But, even today, it has the potential to assist practitioners with basic starting-point research, checking documents for certain terms and accuracy, and automating tasks that improve workflow. Over time, as more people use the technology, machine learning, built into the core of AI, will improve its ability to analyze and produce more relevant and accurate information, something no attorney can afford to ignore. Stay tuned!

We’re curious to hear how you have been using AI, or, if you intend to in the future. Feel free to post your thoughts and experiences!