What is Artificial Intelligence?

Artificial Intelligence ("AI") broadly refers to technology capable of tasks that typically require human intellect. AI is designed not only to execute such tasks, but to learn in the process. Thus, AI technology can develop and exercise judgment, learn patterns, and comprehend varied forms of speech.

Where Do We See AI?

The rapid expansion of AI has thrust this technology to the social forefront. Consider, for example, advanced in-home technology that adapts your surroundings based on learned preferences, or predictive analytics in online software that delivers specific advertisements based on a massive cache of data. More familiar examples include voice-activated software such as Apple's Siri and Amazon's Alexa, or IBM's Watson computer system. Not far behind are self-driving cars, expected in major cities by 2020.

The Law and AI

While the rise of AI technology has been rapid, the law has not kept stride. The result is that we use and interact with AI without an established legal framework for the obligations and consequences that accompany the use of this technology.

Take the self-driving car example. Volumes of statutory law and court decisions have repeatedly addressed questions of tort, insurance and criminal law in relation to automobiles. The core principles of the doctrine, however, are based and dependent on the central premise of a human operator. Like most others, this body of law does not contemplate the era of AI or autonomous vehicles, leaving questions of fault and liability relatively unsettled. Tech Proficiency Yields AI Dividends AI also impacts the legal profession. Specifically tailored AI software can substantially reduce the time attorneys must dedicate to less complex tasks, freeing them to engage with the sophisticated legal issues they were trained to handle. The result is a more rewarding practice of law for the attorney and a cost savings for the client.

The process of discovery in litigation is a prime example. Review and production of documents is critically important to developing and defending claims in litigation, but can also be an expensive and time-intensive process. Legal AI programs can narrow enormous sets of documents, learning as they go, filtering an unwieldy mass into a manageable set of key evidence. An example of this is software generally referred to as TAR (Technology Assisted Review), which has become a valuable strategic asset for attorneys handling complex litigation. AI has also been used to assist in the review of contracts and conduct legal research.

As in other industries, AI's use in the legal field raises questions of due care and ethical obligations.

A relatively recent addition to the New York Rules of Professional Conduct reflects this notion. A comment to the rule governing the competence required of attorneys was added to provide that they should "keep abreast of the benefits and risks associated with technology the lawyer uses to provide services to clients or to store or transmit confidential information." N.Y. Rules of Prof'l Conduct, r. 1.1 cmt. 8. (N.Y. St. Bar Ass'n 2017).

Thus, if AI is to be employed in rendering legal services, the attorney should proceed carefully, taking steps to maintain quality service. In other words, an attorney cannot simply rely on AI software to conduct any legal work without careful direction and quality control, similar to that exercised over the work of a paralegal or associate attorney-in-training.

In short, AI is powerful, can save time and money, and provide incredible insight and analysis. It is important to use consultants and trusted advisors with an in-depth understanding of AI.