ABA Legal Profession Report Part 2: Demographics and Technology
New York Bar Association New AI Guidance: Part 2

New York Bar Association New AI Guidance: Part 1

Stacked3Here is my recent Daily Record column. My past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.


New York Bar Association New AI Guidance: Part 1

It’s been just over a year since OpenAI unleashed ChatGPT Plus powered by GPT-4 into the world, and things haven’t been the same since. From deepfake videos and sophisticated scams powered by generative artificial intelligence (GenAI) tools to lawyers making headlines for citing fake case citations obtained from GenAI requests, this technology is dramatically altering the way that lawyers - and swindlers - achieve their goals. 

Bar association ethics committees have been trying to keep up, with California, Florida, and New Jersey leading the way, having issued GenAI guidance for lawyers. Most recently, New York jumped into the fray on April 6, releasing the lengthy 91-page “Report and Recommendations of the New York State Bar Association Task Force on Artificial Intelligence.” 

This far-reaching report provides: 1) an in-depth examination of the evolution of AI and GenAI, 2) its risks and benefits, 3) how it impacts society and the practice of law, and 4) ethics guidelines and recommendations for lawyers who use these tools.

Today we’ll focus on broader issues addressed in the report that impact the legal profession and courts and will cover the legal ethics guidance in the next column.   

One reason for the report’s breadth is that it isn’t limited to the ethics issues presented by GenAI usage in the legal profession, and instead touches on the many other legal implications that arise when lawyers incorporate these tools into their daily workflows. According to the Committee, there are a number of notable issues attorneys should consider when utilizing ChatGPT and other similar generative AI tools. 

First, when choosing a provider, a thorough understanding of licensing information, the terms of use, and applicable privacy policies is required. Lawyers should also determine what happens to data input into a GenAI tool. Will the provider use that data to train or refine their AI model? Will the provider allow third parties to access that data to train or improve their AI model? Are data inputs protected and stored in an encrypted, closed environment that anonymizes queries and prevents third parties, including opponents and adversaries, from accessing them?

The Committee also addressed the data preservation implications triggered when legal professionals use GenAI to prepare a case for litigation. According to the Committee, “If the data that is inputted into the AI application is temporary/ephemeral, but also relevant and responsive to the litigation, parties have the duty to preserve this electronically stored information.”

Finally, another important topic included in the report was the impact of GenAI-created deepfake evidence and its impact on trials. The Committee acknowledged the challenge presented by synthetic evidence, explaining that “(d)eciding issues of relevance, reliability, admissibility and authenticity may still not prevent deepfake evidence from being presented in court and to a jury.”

According to the Committee, the solution to this problem — and to all issues presented by the impact of GenAI on the practice of law — is education. Lawyers, law students, judges, and regulators must take steps to ensure they fully understand this technology and how existing laws and regulations apply to it. 

Importantly, the Committee emphasized that this new technology is no different than the ones that preceded it, and thus “(m)any of the risks posed by AI are more sophisticated versions of problems that already exist and are already addressed by court rules, professional conduct rules and other law and regulations. Furthermore, many risks are mitigated through understanding the technology and how AI will utilize data input into the AI system.” 

In other words, embracing technology, not fearing it, is the only path forward. Adapting and learning about these tools is essential for maintaining efficacy and relevance in a technology-first world. Of course, GenAI adoption must be done ethically, and the Committee provided lots of helpful guidance in that regard. We’ll learn more about that in my next column when we explore the ethical implications outlined in the report, so stay tuned.

Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney, author, journalist, and the Head of SME and External Education at MyCase legal practice management software and LawPay payment processing, AffiniPay companies. She is the nationally-recognized author of "Cloud Computing for Lawyers" (2012) and co-authors "Social Media for Lawyers: The Next Frontier" (2010), both published by the American Bar Association. She also co-authors "Criminal Law in New York," a Thomson Reuters treatise. She writes regular columns for Above the Law, ABA Journal, and The Daily Record, has authored hundreds of articles for other publications, and regularly speaks at conferences regarding the intersection of law and emerging technologies. She is an ABA Legal Rebel, and is listed on the Fastcase 50 and ABA LTRC Women in Legal Tech. She can be contacted at [email protected].