Young Lawyers Need to Understand the Limitations of AI

I am a member of the District of Columbia Bar, and I, therefore, receive a copy of Washington Lawyer magazine six times a year.  I enjoy the stories, and, on occasion, I have an article published there.

The May/June 2024 magazine includes an article titled “The Client Needs You, Not AI” that I wish all of you could read.  There are many applications of AI in the practice of law, some good and some not so good.  For young lawyers, this can be very confusing — and very dangerous.

Not all of you will have access to this article.  For those of you who do, I hope you will read it.  For the rest of you, I have quoted below from the article to highlight some of the things to be wary of when relying on AI.

From the article by Josephine, M. Bahn, associate at Cozen O’Connor, immediate past chair of the ABA Young Lawyers Division:

AI can be a tool for young and new lawyers to strengthen their repertoire, but it should be used with caution.  We’ve heard the horror stories of lawyers using ChatGPT and nonexistent case law, or of attorneys utilizing AI to produce discovery requests without checking local rules requirements.  It behooves young lawyers to familiarize themselves with the technology they want to use — how it works, what others in the field might use it for, and, most importantly, what its potential pitfalls might be.

Adoption of new technology should not replace the human elements of law practice.  Knowing an individual client’s goals and preferences is not something you can readily feed into an AI platform if, for example, the client hates passive voice or will strike any in-line citations. Without knowing the “people” part of the profession, new technology tools may actually hinder young lawyers’ growth.  Remember that you are the reason the client hired you in the first place, not your ability to use AI.  

Lawyering is a technical profession where words matter and delivery may [matter more than] all else.  Our clients can see through discovery requests formulated using AI that fails to consider prior pleadings, specific facts, and the nuances of the case.  Young lawyers must remember that they are the human element needed to bring a case toward a desirable outcome for the client. …. If you remain the clients’ trusted advisor, then you remain indispensable to them. (emphasis added)

It is not often that I quote so extensively from an article.  In this case, it is important to me that you get this information straight from another associate lawyer, who is confronted with these issues in the same way you are.

It is very good advice.  Heed the warnings.


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