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How AI technology could create a new type of legal malpractice

On Behalf of | Jun 20, 2023 | Legal Malpractice |

Many attorneys work long hours on behalf of their clients, and their jobs can be very labor-intensive. They often have to review not just state and federal statutes but also court precedents to develop a legal argument on behalf of their clients. Anything they can do to reduce the time they spend on each case can potentially help them to assist more people and keep their total charges for clients lowers.

They may hire paralegals to help perform some of that work, or they may rely on technology to automate some of their repetitive job functions. Recent advances in technology may have promise for helping lawyers improve their performance, but it could also create a whole other way for them to fail their clients. A recent legal malpractice case has caught the attention of both the legal world and those interested in technology because the issue has a lot to do with artificial intelligence (AI) software.

How would AI technology lead to legal malpractice?

Chat GPT AI software has the ability to review existing writing online to glean information and learn a style. It can then generate original text according to the prompt input by a user. This process has already caused issues in many industries, including the legal profession.

A lawyer used ChatGPT to research to put together legal paperwork for court filings, only to find themselves embroiled in a legal malpractice controversy. Essentially what happened is that the software generated information about non-existent court cases, which the lawyer then integrated into filings. The lawyer failed to identify the fabricated court rulings, with poor results.

This malpractice case mirrors the reported shortcomings of AI software analyzed in other fields, like academia. Even college students with several years of research training have failed to identify errors in text generated by AI software. The final ruling in this legal malpractice case is still forthcoming at the time of this blog’s publication, but the likelihood of additional AI malpractice claims in the future is high.

Anytime there are major advances in technology, there will always be early adopters, and some of them will inevitably make mistakes that have consequences either for them or the people that hire or trust them. Pursuing a legal malpractice claim may be the only option for those affected by gross incompetence on the part of a legal professional, such as citing a court case that doesn’t exist.