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ANALYSIS: AI Tech Use Is Common, But Do Lawyers Understand It?

Aug. 27, 2020, 7:10 PM

The use of legal technology in law firms and in-house legal departments is on the rise. Earlier this month, I wrote about how those in legal organizations are using more collaboration tools post-pandemic.

In-house legal departments and law firms are also frequently using technologies that likely employ artificial intelligence or machine learning algorithms, the Bloomberg Law Legal Technology Survey (2020) found.

But, while most respondents use this technology, only one-third said they are aware of that fact at their organization. The other two-thirds are either unsure whether AI or machine learning is being used in the tools they are relying upon, or believe that AI isn’t being used at their organization at all.

Our 2020 survey found that respondents are generally more aware than they were last year that AI is powering their tech tools. But results were mixed on how well respondents felt they understood the underlying AI.

Despite this lack of understanding, respondents were split on their levels of concern about the ethical implications of AI and machine learning technologies. Fewer than half of respondents said they are somewhat or very concerned, and more than one-quarter said they are not very or at all concerned. As for the quarter of respondents who were neutral on the ethics of AI? They weren’t concerned enough to say they were concerned.

Given that 37 states have adopted a statement on attorney tech competence as part of their professional conduct rules, attorneys using AI-driven technologies should perhaps be more concerned about the ethics of relying on AI outputs to advise clients. While it may be impossible or unnecessary to understand all the intricacies of every algorithm, lawyers should be well-informed on the limitations of the tools they are using. Similarly, organizations should train lawyers to use tech in a way that is mindful of their ethical obligations.

Bloomberg Law subscribers can find related content on our In Focus: Legal Technology resource.

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