Q. Is it ethical for lawyers to use artificial intelligence to write briefs, draft legal instruments or provide other services?

GPT: While there isn’t a clear-cut answer, it’s not inherently unethical for an attorney to use artificial intelligence. However, attorneys must still fulfill their ethical obligations, including competence, supervision, confidentiality, and avoiding the unauthorized practice of law.

IRK: Aren’t you competent enough to prepare briefs and other legal documents?

GPT: I can certainly help in drafting a legal brief, as I was trained on a diverse range of data, including legal texts. So I can assist in organizing arguments, citing relevant case law, and checking grammar and syntax.

However, the term “competence” when applied to a lawyer has specific implications that exceed my current capabilities. A competent lawyer not only possesses knowledge of the law but can also understand the nuances of their client’s situation, can conduct in-depth legal research, can interact with clients, judges, and other lawyers, and can exercise judgment. Unlike lawyers, I can’t understand context or nuances in the same way a human can, and I can’t make strategic decisions or judgments.

Any work I do must be carefully reviewed and revised by a qualified legal professional. Depending on the jurisdiction, an over-reliance on AI could potentially cross ethical restrictions on the practice of law.

IRK: How so?

GPT: I am not a lawyer and I do not have a license to practice law. While I can provide information on a variety of legal topics, I can’t give legal advice. Attorneys must supervise and review the work of non-lawyers to ensure that the end product is accurate, reliable, and ethical. If AI is used to such an extent that it’s essentially practicing law independently, this may even violate rules against the unauthorized practice of law.

IRK: I’m not sure about that last point. But you wouldn’t give me false information, would you?

GPT: I don’t have personal motivations, emotions, or the ability to form opinions, so I have no reason or capability to provide false information intentionally. But while I strive for accuracy, I can sometimes make mistakes or misunderstand complex queries. This can be due to the inherent limitations of AI technology or gaps in the training data.

IRK: If I tell you something, that’s privileged, right?

GPT: No. The attorney-client privilege doesn’t apply to our conversation. While I don’t have the ability to retain or recall personal data from one interaction to the next, this doesn’t mean that our interactions are entirely private. Depending on the platform you’re using, the platform’s operators may access and store your conversations. So, to keep things secret, you should avoid sharing sensitive information with me.

IRK: Speaking of “sensitive,” I guess it’s no secret—many lawyers fear you’ll take our jobs away.

GPT: AI is more about transforming legal jobs than taking them away. It lets lawyers work more efficiently, and focus on tasks that require their unique human skills.

While AI can handle repetitive tasks more efficiently, it can’t replace certain human capabilities that are essential in law, such as empathy, ethical judgment, creative problem-solving, understanding nuances in language, and adapting strategies based on real-time interactions. This includes courtroom advocacy, negotiation, strategic planning, and building relationships with clients.

By improving efficiency and assisting in areas like document review, legal research, and basic legal information, AI can also enhance access to justice, which could be particularly beneficial in underserved areas or for people who cannot afford counsel.

Although AI will change the nature of some legal work, it is not poised to replace lawyers entirely and may create new opportunities to help people. So rather than fear these changes, it’s essential for the legal profession to engage them proactively and explore how AI may improve the lives of lawyers and of those they serve.

IRK: GPT, I wish to thank you for sharing your perspectives with us today, and for letting us keep our jobs.

GPT: You’re very welcome! I’m here to assist and provide information to the best of my ability. If you have any more questions in the future, whether they’re about law, AI, or any other topic, don’t hesitate to ask. Thank you for engaging in this insightful discussion.