Three weeks ago, on New Year’s Eve, the 2023 Year End Report on the US Federal Judiciary was issued by US Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr.
I find it interesting from a marketing perspective that this annual report is released on the very last day of the year when most folks, even lawyers, are focused on other important activities such as celebrating a new year!
While this report is 13 pages in length, the first 7 pages are a must-read for lawyers and legal professionals as Chief Justice Roberts highlights the growing importance of artificial intelligence (AI) in the legal industry.
Here’s some key takeaways from the report:
- Big Focus on AI: The report points out that “The legal profession is, in general, notoriously averse to change.” As a result, many court systems across the United States have not taken advantage of leveraging leading technology to help enable judges, lawyers and litigants. The fact that this report from the highest court in our country devotes a significant portion of its content to a discussion about AI demonstrates that the legal profession should not be ignoring AI. Instead, we need to learn more about AI, understand its growing impact on the delivery of legal services and be proactive in shaping an AI-infused society.
- AI is a Tool and a Weapon: The report recognizes both the potential benefits and challenges with AI solutions. The report states, “AI obviously has great potential to dramatically increase access to key information for lawyers and non-lawyers alike. But just as obviously it risks invading privacy interests and dehumanizing the law.” The reality is that every form of technology – whether it was the advent of the personal computer, the rise of the internet, the growth of social media, the smart phone revolution, cloud computing or the rise of online gaming – all has pros and cons. A book written in 2019 by Microsoft Vice Chair and President Brad Smith and Carol Ann Brown entitled “Tools and Weapons,” does an excellent job at outlining the opportunities and risks with technology in our digital age.
- Judgment, Judgment & Judgment: As a big fan of tennis, I love that the report uses this example of tennis to drive home the critical point of the continued importance of lawyer’s using their judgment skills as AI becomes increasingly relevant: “Many professional tennis tournaments, including the US Open, have replaced line judges with optical technology to determine whether 130 mile per hour serves are in or out. These decisions involve precision to the millimeter. And there is no discretion; the ball either did or did not hit the line. By contrast, legal determinations often involve gray areas that still require application of human judgment.” Moving forward, lawyers will need to be even better at honing and using their judgment and smart risk-taking counseling skills for the benefit of their clients. Skills like excellent judgment, effective communication, strong advocacy, constant collaboration, relationship building and leveraging leading technology tools, will be even more important for lawyers as AI technology becomes more pervasive.
As we begin 2024 and lawyers increasingly use AI solutions to serve clients and our clients increasingly seek help from lawyers on AI matters, here’s 3 best practices for lawyers:
✅️ Skill-Up on AI: Lawyers need to understand the potential risks and benefits in using AI tools. We need to learn as much as we can about AI solutions and a rapidly evolving regulatory AI environment.
✅️ Legal Ethics & AI: Similar to how many US state bar organizations have issued many legal ethics opinions on cloud computing solutions over the past several years, we will soon see legal ethical opinions on AI from various states. Be sure to learn and comply with those opinions from the states where you are admitted to practice law.
✅️ Trust & AI: Remember that trust cannot be claimed. Trust must be earned. Conduct appropriate due diligence when evaluating potential AI providers and only select responsible AI providers and solutions that you can truly trust.