This week, Hinshaw & Culbertson’s Wendy Chang flew in to Philadelphia from Los Angeles to speak about technology and attorney ethical obligations at the ABA’s professional responsibility conference.
Her panel, provocatively titled “The Rise of the Machines” and scheduled for Thursday afternoon, deals with all the current and emerging technology driven tools in the legal profession — from e-Discovery to the only loosely defined “artificial intelligence” tools.
In an interview with Big Law Business, Chang, who sits on the ABA’s Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility, said that at a minimum attorneys need to be competent in the technology they use. Below is an edited interview transcript.
Big Law Business: Are there any bedrock rules?
Chang: The basic core advice is if you don’t understand how something works, you shouldn’t be using it to deliver core confidential client services. If you’re going to use technology, you need to understand it. You can cure a lack of individual confidence by learning it or associating with an individual who does know it. What you can’t do is kind of stick your head in the sand.
Big Law Business: So you can associate with people who do understand?
Chang: But you still have to supervise what’s going on. You have to have a sufficient confidence that you are meeting your obligations. You can’t ever delegate that away.
Big Law Business: When can you rely on IT?
Chang: The IT department — their skills are in the IT space. They have skills we don’t have as lawyers, and we as lawyers have skills that they don’t. You can trust the IT department for the technology side of it, but on the services side the lawyers need to think about their obligations. Using technology is not all that different from when you get a memo from a junior lawyer. You have to review it and test it. You always have to make sure that what a machine is saying is correct.
Big Law Business: Your panel is about artificial intelligence. What is AI?
Chang: That’s really a hard thing to define. It’s one of those things with a lot of different definitions. I think of it as computers that have a lot of data and do some sort of sorting, smart sorting. It has the ability to gather and sort and rank massive amounts of data depending on the instructions its given.
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