Dennis BeaverFebruary 3, 2023 • By Dennis Beaver

“Mr. Beaver, I’ve been reading about AI — Artificial Intelligence — and Chat GPT that you can talk to and which, because of its enormous database, can actually function as a lawyer, providing advice or even help you manage a lawsuit that you are involved in at present. Is this for real or is it just hype?

“I need to know this because I was just sued by a former employer and have to defend myself. Thanks for your help, ‘Ben.’”

If you have heard that AI and the chatbot ChatGPT is a replacement for an actual attorney, I suggest that you watch the 1968 film, 2001 A Space Odyssey, where the human-sounding HAL computer — which is an actual crew member on this ship — loses its mind with disastrous results.

Imitates Human Conversation

San Francisco-based OpenAI made the ChatGPT chatbot that mimics human conversation available for free public testing on Nov. 30 last year. The ChatGPT is quite amazing, and you’ve probably seen news stories on the scope of what it can do, from writing term papers to creating poetry and writing legal pleadings.

I ran the question of what impact will AI will have on access and the delivery of legal services by Southern California trial lawyers Brian Kabateck and Shant Karnikian.

AI highly useful for things that are standardized

“Artificial Intelligence robots are useful in drafting things that are standardized, such as creating leases and contracts — things of a transactional nature. But are far less in a litigation context where many elements are individualized. Where there is a dispute between parties that can’t be standardized — as each matter and the wrongs that are done to people are different — this is where I doubt a computer will ever replace juries who can deal with damages on an individualized basis,” Shant said.

“That said, in the litigation world, AI will be helpful assisting with logistics such as notices that go out, answering questions based on non-subjective facts, such as: ‘When is the hearing? When will the checks be disbursed?’”

Be skeptical of ‘cost effective’ lawyers because they use AI

Kabatek: There is a substantial amount of reasoning, human review and discretion that lawyers are trained to do. I would be suspicions of lawyers who claim that they can get things done much more quickly because they have AI doing all the work.

Where you hire an attorney to draft a contract or any document that is important to your future, you’ve got to be sure that someone is actually looking at it, otherwise, what are you paying them for?

Shant: In its present form it is doubtful that AI can find the smoking gun.

In litigation there are times when you need legal research to support an argument and one lawyer in the room was the only person to spot it even though AI was used as a research tool. From what I have seen of computerized legal research — which is a form of AI — it is not good at finding those little nuances in appellate decisions that make a huge difference.

But that is what a lawyer’s experience brings to the table; finding a case that might not be relevant on point but makes an analogous argument. Perhaps AI will evolve and do that, but for now that’s where I have concerns. How do I know that it went through everything in supporting some critical argument?

What Clients Must Watch Out For

Brian: How are you being billed?

(1) Make sure that you are not being charged the lawyer’s regular rate if AI was actually doing the work.

(2) You want a lawyer who is sure that what the AI generates is correct. That will be a factor at some firms that rely solely on AI. The lawyer has an ethical responsibility to oversee any work that is being done by AI. I can see real problems and potential malpractice suits against lawyers who accepted cases outside of their area of practice and relied on AI to manage the case.

A lawyer who accepts a case that gets into an area of the law he is completely unfamiliar with runs the risk of committing malpractice and doing the client real harm.

(3) AI will not turn you into an instant lawyer! You will not know what you missed! Dennis, your reader sounds as if he plans to use AI and AI alone to defend him in this lawsuit. This is like taking out you own appendix when you haven’t attended medical school.

Avoid law firms heavily marketing the fact that all their work is done through AI or for use of some software they claim to make themselves more efficient.

Both lawyers caution: “Avoid anyone who, as their No. 1 marketing gimmick, advertises, “We will only charge you so much because we use AI.”

Good advice.

Dennis Beaver practices law in Bakersfield and enjoys hearing from his readers. Contact Dennis Beaver.