Dangers of over-reliance on AI in the legal profession

By Andrew Zashin*

Artificial intelligence programs like ChatGPT are transforming the world as we know it. While people worldwide are using these programs to solve math problems and generate travel itineraries, these tools also have the potential to revolutionize the workplace.

In the legal field, AI tools have the potential to transform the profession. From summarizing complicated legal theories to analyzing data, AI tools may enable lawyers to perform a variety of tasks with greater speed, accuracy and efficiency. Blind reliance on the current AI programs, however, presents serious risks. Recently, two New York lawyers faced potential sanctions after they submitted a ChatGPT generated court brief that cited to six “nonexistent cases” and “bogus quotes” that ChatGPT invented. This forces us to pause and look at the potential benefits and pitfalls of utilizing AI in the legal field.

At the outset, AI-powered tools can automate time-consuming tasks, such as legal research, document review, and even due diligence. By automating repetitive tasks, AI can save lawyers significant time and reduce costs associated with legal proceedings. If legal research, document review, and contract analysis can be completed faster and more efficiently, law firms can handle more cases and allocate resources effectively. Streamlining these processes also allows lawyers to focus on more complex and strategic tasks.

AI algorithms can also process and analyze vast amounts of legal information and data with precision and consistency, reducing the risk of human error. By extracting valuable insights from large volumes of documents, court cases, and precedents, AI has the potential for more accurate legal research, contract analysis, and case prediction. This enables lawyers to make well-informed decisions, build stronger cases, and identify patterns and trends that may be missed by human analysts.

But as the New York lawyers learned, using AI does not come without risks. AI systems lack the ability to exercise human judgment, intuition and empathy, meaning that these tools sometimes struggle to accurately replicate nuanced interpretation of the law and to contextualize important decisions. AI tools may also fail to explain the rationale behind specific outcomes.

The reliance solely on AI may also overlook critical legal factors and ethical considerations. The New York case has caused some to question if lawyers need to disclose their reliance on AI tools in the course of their work, particularly if the AI system ultimately provides incorrect legal advice or recommendations. Law firms will also need to give careful consideration to the privacy and security challenges that arise when utilizing these tools to handle confidential and sensitive information and data.

Ultimately, the use of AI in legal proceedings offers the potential for significant benefits, including enhanced efficiency, improved accuracy, and time and cost savings for clients. Lawyers utilizing AI tools, however, must weigh the limitations and potential risks associated with AI, and, in these early phases of the AI tools must carefully review any information or documents generated by these tools. If used correctly, AI will likely serve as a valuable tool that augments the capabilities of legal professionals by improving their overall efficiency and accuracy.

This article originally appeared as a column for the Cleveland Jewish News.