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January 25, 2024 Law Practice Management

AI, It's Here to Stay. So Now What? Navigating the Integration of Artificial Intelligence in Family Law Practice

By: Meredith F. McBride

A.I. and L.L.M.s—no, not the masters degree in law, but rather large language models likes ChatGPT or Bard—usually provoke a visceral reaction in people, they either love it or hate it! If you fall into the second category, before you picture robots arguing custody cases, let's dispel some myths. AI isn't here to replace seasoned attorneys; it's here to be their superpowered sidekick. LLMs, trained on vast libraries of legal texts and legal data, can perform tasks that once drained our time and energy, freeing us to focus on what we do best: strategizing, advocating, and navigating the emotional complexities of family law.

So, how can these digital wizards enhance your practice? Let's delve into three key areas:

1. Marketing your expertise

Ever struggled to create marketing content that truly resonates with potential clients? Enter AI. Imagine LLMs tailoring newsletters and blog posts to address specific family law concerns, speaking directly to the anxieties and questions keeping people up at night. Picture AI-powered analytics dissecting audience behavior, guiding you towards targeted marketing campaigns that attract the right clients. For that 24/7 touch, there's the magic of chatbots, instantly responding to inquiries and offering support on your website.

2. Taming the administrative beast

Let's face it, paperwork and scheduling can bog down even the most efficient lawyer. But AI comes to the rescue, automating tedious tasks like document management, calendar coordination, and client communication. Imagine legal documents magically organizing themselves, appointments seamlessly scheduled, and clients kept informed with personalized updates. Suddenly, you have more time to delve into the intricacies of your cases, leaving the administrative drudgery behind.

3. AI for Better Client Representation

First, AI is not a substitute for you. We have all heard about the attorneys who submitted a brief filled with fake case law generated by ChatGPT. (If you haven’t, learn more about the case here.) Don’t be those attorneys! AI is great, but it also can make things up and get hallucinations. With AI you can trust, but must verify!

LLMs are not infallible but they are powerful brainstorming partners. Do you have a tricky case where each side is stuck in their positions on an issue and you can’t seem to find a compromise? Put in the facts, put in the options you’ve already thought of, and ask Chat or Bard to generate some more. But be aware that LLMs like ChatGPT and Bard are open source, that means that information you put in them is potentially available to the entire world. DO NOT put any confidential information or attorney client privileged information into an LLM!

Another way to use AI, imagine you're grappling with a settlement term or crafting a compelling argument, but the precise wording eludes you. Rather than investing considerable time in revisions, there's a more efficient solution. Simply convey the concept or idea your are trying to express into Chat or Bard and let it articulate your thoughts and refine the phrasing for you.

ChatGPT or Bard can be instrumental in optimizing the client experience. This includes generating comprehensive intake packets, crafting personalized welcome and closing emails, and automating numerous tedious tasks associated with case intake.

In essence, AI becomes not just a writing assistant but a strategic ally in enhancing your overall legal practice. It transforms the way you communicate legal concepts and streamlines the client onboarding process, allowing you to focus more on the nuanced aspects of your cases.

Challenges and Ethical Considerations

While AI and LLMs promise exciting possibilities for family law practice, their integration demands careful consideration and responsible implementation. Here are some crucial challenges and ethical considerations to navigate:

Understanding the Tool

Blindly relying on AI can lead to disastrous consequences. Familiarize yourself with different AI tools and their capabilities. Remember, they are not infallible oracles; their outputs are reflections of the data they're trained on. Garbage in, garbage out. Don't expect AI to magically solve complex legal problems without your critical judgment and expertise. Do not be the attorneys who submitted fictious case law because they didn’t understand the technology. If you are going to use it, make sure you understand it!

Data Privacy and Security

Family law often deals with highly sensitive information. Be meticulous about data privacy and security when using AI tools. Avoid feeding confidential client information into open-source AI platforms like ChatGPT. Always choose reliable, secure tools with robust data protection measures.

Bias and Accuracy

AI is susceptible to bias inherent in its training data. Be vigilant against biased outputs that could disadvantage your clients. Scrutinize AI-generated content for accuracy and fairness, ensuring it aligns with legal and ethical principles.

Transparency and Disclosure

Openness and transparency are essential when deploying AI in your practice. Disclose to your clients when you use AI tools, explaining their purpose and limitations. This strengthens trust and builds ethical awareness within the legal system.

The Human Touch

Remember, AI is a valuable assistant, not a replacement for your expertise and judgment. Leverage its capabilities to streamline tasks and enhance your work, but never lose sight of the human element at the heart of family law. Empathy, emotional intelligence, and ethical navigation remain irreplaceable assets in advocating for your clients.

By adopting a cautious and responsible approach, family law practitioners can unlock the potential of AI while mitigating its risks. By prioritizing ethical considerations, data security, and human-centered interaction, we can ensure AI serves as a powerful tool for good, advancing the practice of family law in a safe and responsible manner.

Disclaimer: This Committee Corner article received support from ChatGPT and Bard. The process involved initiating a topic, soliciting an outline from Chat, having it compose the article, and subsequently seeking a rewrite from Bard. Dissatisfied with the initial drafts, I opted to start afresh using the provided outline, occasionally incorporating lines or phrasing from the AI-generated drafts. The final draft reflects a synthesis of my own input and the assistance provided by the AI tools.

The material in all ABA publications is copyrighted and may be reprinted by permission only. Request reprint permission here.

Meredith F. McBride

Esq., Darien, CT

ABA Section of Family Law Law Practice Management Committee Chair