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Over the years, advances in technology have generally outpaced the laws that address the tech and/or the impact it has on society. The legal profession in North Carolina is witnessing the beginnings of a transformation due to the advent of artificial intelligence (AI), a trend that has the potential to reshape legal education, practice, and the very nature of legal disputes. AI has implications for law students, legal practitioners, and the emergence of new types of legal cases. As businesses and government entities continue to decide how to best deal with the emergence of AI and related implications, here are a few things to consider.

Ethical and Regulatory Considerations

The ethical use of AI in the legal industry and regulatory challenges are two of the biggest concerns in the profession. If you have ever used an AI tool, you will notice the fine print in the footer cautioning that the responses may be incomplete or even incorrect. In June of 2023, a US Judge sanctioned and fined a law firm in New York for citing six fake cases in their legal brief. The firm stated their belief that the information provided by the AI tool was correct. In another case, a Colorado attorney was suspended after using fake cases generated by AI and then lying about it.

Ensuring that AI systems are unbiased, transparent, and fair is paramount, especially when these technologies are used in sensitive legal contexts. There must be rules in place around using AI as well as checks and balances to ensure data generated using these tools is accurate. The reality is that AI tools are still relatively new. Clients must be able to trust the judgment of their attorneys when getting legal advice and recommendations.

Transforming Legal Practice with AI

As AI becomes more streamlined and accurate, law firms may benefit by automating tasks like legal research (with review and confirmation) and document management. This will allow lawyers to focus on strategic aspects of cases, improving efficiency and potentially reducing costs for clients. AI systems can analyze vast amounts of legal data, identifying relevant precedents and patterns that may be missed by human researchers or picking up on brand new rulings that an attorney may not have seen yet. For the foreseeable future, we expect these analyses to be reviewed and “vetted” by legal professionals.

AI may also impact legal practices in the following ways:

  • Contract review and drafting: AI can assist with reviewing and drafting contracts, identifying potential risks and inconsistencies, and saving lawyers valuable time.
  • E-discovery: AI can help sift through large volumes of electronic data, streamlining the e-discovery process and reducing costs associated with manual review.
  • Predictive analytics: AI can be used to analyze legal data and predict the likelihood of certain outcomes, allowing lawyers to develop more informed strategies for their clients.

Emerging Legal Disputes and AI in North Carolina

The rise of AI is also leading to new types of legal disputes in North Carolina and the US. Issues surrounding digital content, such as defamation cases involving deep fakes, are on the rise. These AI-generated realistic representations pose unique legal challenges, prompting North Carolina’s legal system to consider the complexities of liability and authenticity in the digital age. Moreover, AI’s role in decision-making processes introduces intricate questions about accountability and ethics in various sectors, including healthcare, finance, and criminal justice. As is often the case, while new technologies offer many positives, there always seems to be someone out there using the technology maliciously.

Additionally, AI also presents other legal complexities:

  • Algorithmic bias: AI systems can perpetuate societal biases present in the data they are trained on. This raises concerns about fairness and discrimination in areas like loan approvals, hiring practices, and criminal justice.
  • Ownership and intellectual property: Questions arise regarding who owns the intellectual property rights associated with works created by AI systems.
  • Transparency and accountability: As AI becomes increasingly complex, ensuring transparency in decision-making processes and holding entities accountable for AI-related harm becomes crucial.
  • Job displacement: The automation of tasks through AI raises concerns about potential job displacement not only in the legal industry but throughout a range of other industries and careers.

AI’s Impact on Legal Education in North Carolina

Law schools in North Carolina are considering how to incorporate AI, to prepare students for a future where technology and law intersect. Law schools must consider how to integrate courses on AI, data privacy, and technology law, equipping students with the knowledge to navigate the legal landscape effectively. Attorneys who are currently practicing must keep an eye on these developments as they happen and incorporate this knowledge into their practices.

AI’s “disruption” of the legal industry in North Carolina presents a blend of challenges and opportunities. Legal professionals must adapt to this new technology and consider when and how to use it to enhance legal services and better support their clients. For now, most law firms will move forward with caution, ensuring their legal clients can rely on the judgment and decision-making skills of their attorneys.