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Are lawyers at risk of losing their occupation to AI?

Are lawyers at risk of losing their jobs to AI? AI has been in the news a lot this year, leaving many Americans perplexed or with mixed feelings. Recently, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) published the bold claim that artificial intelligence would occupy roughly 27 percent of future jobs. However, the report did not stop there. It went on to conclude that lawyers were most at risk. While the reports’ bold claims garnered clicks and attention, the evidence given to support these claims was weak at best.

The report first cited AI’s ability to pass legal exams, such as the bar exam. This reasoning assumes the bar exam is a true measure of a good lawyer. This is far from the truth, as good lawyers could fail the bar examination, while lousy ones may pass. In general, this rationale causes some concern about the credibility of the bar exam and its abilities to evaluate somebody’s legal ability. The other piece of evidence given by the OECD report was almost comically vague. Some lawyers are worried. That’s it. The report backs up its bold claims by stating that some anonymous lawyers somewhere are worried. This hardly seems like evidence for anything, except that some lawyers may be concerned about AI.

The possible downsides of a lawyer relying too much on AI are well documented. Attorney Steven Schwartz recently used ChatGPT to respond to a motion to dismiss. There was just one major problem. Schwartz never independently checked the imaginary case that ChatGPT had fabricated. Instead, he made a bad situation worse, when he again prompted ChatGPT to confirm the validity of its own creation. With this confirmation, he filed the brief. Not surprisingly, once the mistake came to light, Schwartz found himself with all sorts of trouble and negative attention.

With rapid new development, what role does AI play in the legal field? Some applications may be inevitable. However, artificial intelligence is a long way from causing unemployment for lawyers… unless, like Schwartz, they use it irresponsibly. There is some room to incorporate AI sooner rather than later. These uses are more likely to boost efficiency than cause unemployment. The conversation regarding AI in the legal field has just begun. The presence of AI in law will no doubt grow in the future. The growth will be incremental though. Fortunately for lawyers and clients, AI may eventually increase the speed of some legal work, without threatening the valuable attorney-client relationship.