Artificial intelligence (AI) is not a new concept. It has been around since the 1950s with a long history of advancements and applications in various arenas. The release of OpenAI’s ChatGPT in November 2022 created significant media attention and caused many lawyers to become anxious and fearful of AI. According to the Clio Legal Trends Report 2023, 63% of legal professionals said they were interested in learning more about AI but were cautious about implementing it into their practice, with 58% saying they don’t believe it is reliable and 39% saying they don’t trust it. To lessen the risk of malpractice and ethical violations, legal professionals need to understand the different types of AI so they can make intelligent decisions about which programs they may want to integrate into their practice.
Generally, AI is the science and engineering of making intelligent machines and software to mimic the problem-solving and decision-making capabilities of the human brain. AI can be divided into two types: traditional AI and generative AI.
Traditional AITraditional AI is defined as a machine trained on specific data sets to perform particular tasks based on that data. The machine then focuses on performing a particular task intelligently and is built to improve its performance of that task over time. Commonly used examples of traditional AI include Google’s search algorithm, recommendation engines on Netflix or Amazon, and voice assistants like Siri or Alexa.
Generative AIGenerative AI is a different type of artificial intelligence. It is defined as a machine capable of generating new and original text, images, code, and other content in response to a user prompt. This process begins with the creation of various algorithms that allow a machine to analyze data and learn to generate statistically probable outputs. In other words, the machine creates brand-new content. Traditional AI does not generate new content.
ChatGPT is a chatbot powered by generative AI. Although programs like ChatGPT appear to have endless capabilities that could assist legal professionals with various tasks, they currently pose serious risks including the possibility of outdated or incorrect knowledge and an inability to determine whether responses come from a source of truth. And if no source is identifiable, use of the information could lead to copyright infringement issues. See Hong Dao’s article for more information about the risks associated with using generative AI programs like ChatGPT.
Existing Traditional AI ProgramsAs with previous new technologies such as email and cloud storage, it will take time for the legal profession to understand the ethical and malpractice risks of generative AI. It will then be the responsibility of vendors to develop programs legal professionals can trust. Legal professionals will continue to carry a due diligence obligation to vet and properly use the programs. Until then, consider using traditional AI tools already established in the legal profession. You still have a duty to verify the accuracy of the information provided and the security of the program overall. But these are small steps you can take towards integrating AI into your practice.
Examples of traditional AI programs commonly used in the legal industry include the following:
1. Document management.
Programs like NetDocs use AI to create search capabilities that surface the information most relevant to your work and provide filters to further refine searches. They also use predictive email filing by prompting you to send emails to a suggested location based on names in the email, subject line, and attached documents, and by how you filed emails in the past.
2. Document automation.
Also known as document assembly, document automation is the process of creating documents based on a set of rules. The data is then automatically inserted into the final document. Common examples include Gavel and Knackly. They are based on a workflow model that allows you to automate your process through the input of sets of questions and answers. The workflow then generates a set of fillable templates. Other popular automation software includes HotDocs and TheFormTool. These programs allow you to upload documents and use the authoring tool to convert them into fillable templates. Many practice management software programs have built-in document automation, usually as part of the intake process. Others, including Smokeball and Actionstep, include modifiable practice-area-specific templates.
3. Workflow automation.
Some programs, such as Clio Grow and Lawmatics, streamline the intake process by providing tools to automate intake forms, schedule appointments with potential clients, and track leads.
4. Automatic time tracking.
These programs use AI to capture activity on your devices, such as when you are using Microsoft Word or Outlook. They then provide a detailed summary, and you input the appropriate time and description for each entry. Examples include Wisetime and Chrometa. Practice management software programs like Smokeball and Caret Legal also include this feature. Automatic time tracking can be particularly helpful in practice management software because of the ability to connect the work to the related client matter.
Best PracticesWhen considering any program containing traditional AI, keep in mind these suggested best practices:
1. Use programs that have been created specifically for attorney consumption, following strict firm procedures to ensure accuracy and security. See OSB Formal Ethics Opinion 2011-188 for suggestions on how to properly vet a third-party vendor.
2. Carefully review and verify the accuracy of any work produced by AI software.
3. Don’t use any AI program unless it is a closed system. Closed AI systems operate within specific parameters, using only vetted data sources. This also means that the AI rules are used only on data protected within the program’s internal systems, not allowing input or access to anyone outside of the vendor.
For more information about artificial intelligence and how it could be used to streamline your practice, please contact a practice management attorney by phone (503.639.6911) or through a web inquiry.