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GPSolo March/April 2024: Niche Areas of Law Practice

Tips for Using Artificial Intelligence Effectively and Efficiently

Jeffrey M Allen


  • AI will increase its presence in our lives, so familiarize yourself with it and make informed decisions about when, where, and how to employ it.
  • Select AI tools that align with your needs, budget, and technological capabilities. Consider factors such as ease of integration, user interface, accuracy, scalability, and vendor reputation.
  • Develop an understanding of AI ethics, fairness, and bias to help you make informed decisions about AI usage. Understand the potential of biases in AI algorithms and seek to mitigate them.
Tips for Using Artificial Intelligence Effectively and Efficiently
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Artificial intelligence (AI) has stepped to the front of the line regarding hot technology topics. AI issues cover the waterfront from exceptionally good to horrific. AI references the science of making machines that can think like humans. AI can recognize patterns, make decisions, and judge like humans, but it can assemble and assimilate huge amounts of data much more rapidly. As AI has evolved, people have found more things for it to do, many of which can help us personally and professionally.

As AI grows continuously more user-friendly and evolves into an increasingly powerful technology, we will find it encroaching on our personal and professional lives more and more. We will undoubtedly welcome some of that involvement and wish to eschew other portions of it. This article will not address whether you should use AI in your practice. It starts from the premise that you will. In fact, most practicing attorneys already use AI in their professional and personal lives, whether they know it or not.

We have used AI in our practices for some time. The online research tools we use represent a basic form of AI. Digital assistants such as Siri, Alexa, and Hey Google offer additional examples of our use of AI, as do connected “smart” homes and offices. Other examples of AI used by or for us in our daily lives include, without limitation, fraud detection by financial institutions, image and facial recognition, autonomous vehicle operation, chatbots for customer service, and medical diagnoses. Now that the newest iteration of ChatGPT has managed to pass a bar exam without ever attending a day of law school, anticipate even greater pressure from vendors to implement it in your practice and to give it increasing responsibility. Despite my affinity for technology, I continue to have concerns about the uses to which we put ChatGPT.

We have reached the point where the relevant question no longer relates to whether we should use AI in our personal lives and/or our practice. Rather, the question we now must ask addresses the uses to which we put AI in those contexts.

Given that we will deal with AI, likely extensively, moving forward, the most significant questions we will face include: How do we deal with AI effectively? How do we deal with AI efficiently? And how do we deal with AI safely? I long ago abandoned the idea that passing the bar established the qualifications to practice law or that everyone who passes the bar should practice law.

We cannot overlook or over-emphasize the significance of the risk associated with using AI, as AI currently comes without a moral compass. It does the work assigned to it by humans without concern as to right or wrong. AI has had a history of using false information to support conclusions, making up citations of authority, and other similar behaviors that can give attorneys nightmares or even lead to disciplinary actions and disbarment. While, ultimately, we will be able to train AI to recognize the difference between real and false citations, AI has not yet reached that point.

AI has continued to evolve and recently took a great leap forward with the recent development of ChatGPT. Before ChatGPT, AI had a much more limited functionality; using AI other than in the focused applications offered by a service provider (such as in connection with legal research) required a level of technical expertise not possessed by most people. ChatGPT has played a significant role in advancing the state of the art in natural language processing and making AI more accessible and intuitive for users across various domains and applications. Its impact on the functionality and ease of use of AI reflects itself in the wide range of applications and use cases it has enabled, from virtual assistants and chatbots to content generation and language translation. ChatGPT let the AI genie out of the lamp. Unlike Aladdin’s genie, who granted him only three wishes, the ChatGPT genie offers unlimited wishes to everyone. Your wish serves as its command. Because ChatGPT lacks a moral compass and does not yet know better than to substitute fiction for fact, the unlimited wish scenario can pose problems and create risks in the hands of any of us. Note that the bad guys have as ready access to AI as the rest of us and have already started using it for evil.

While governments, courts, and industry leaders acknowledge that we need to impose limitations on AI and restrictions on the use of its products, such restrictions have not come very quickly. Moreover, they seem to come without teeth so far; accordingly, many have not bothered to pay attention to the rules now in place. That means continuing risks for all related to AI.

I will devote the rest of this column to telling you about steps you can follow to help take advantage of what the AI genie offers and reduce risks associated with using AI. Please do not take it as a “how to” manual telling you how to use AI; that exceeds the scope of this article. These suggestions simply offer you some guidance as to how to employ AI in your law practice efficiently and effectively without exposing yourself unnecessarily to great risk.

  1. Stay informed about AI developments. Learn about AI and how it works. Keep updated on advancements in AI technology, particularly those relevant to the legal industry. Follow reputable sources, attend conferences, and participate in training programs to stay abreast of new tools and applications.
  2. Identify use cases. Identify areas of your practice where you can beneficially use AI. Examples to consider include legal research, contract analysis, due diligence, e-discovery, and predictive analytics. Evaluate AI solutions tailored to these use cases to streamline workflows and improve efficiency.
  3. Embrace innovation. Create and encourage a culture of innovation and adaptability in your firm to embrace new technologies and leverage AI opportunities. Encourage experimentation and exploration to drive continuous improvement and innovation in your legal practice.
  4. Experiment and learn. Experiment with AI tools and applications to explore their capabilities and potential benefits. Learn and adapt to new AI technologies as they evolve and become more accessible.
  5. Choose the right tools. Select AI tools that align with your needs, budget, and technological capabilities. Consider factors such as ease of integration, user interface, accuracy, scalability, and vendor reputation when evaluating potential AI solutions. Try before you buy, and make sure that the tool meets your firm’s use case.
  6. Train yourself and your staff. Train and educate the attorneys and staff members in your firm respecting the use and capabilities of the AI tools you adopt. Do not implement them and then train your staff. Train your staff and then implement the tools once you and your staff feel comfortable using them. Use continuing education programs, workshops, and hands-on training sessions to build proficiency in AI-driven legal technologies.
  7. Monitor performance. Continuously monitor the performance of AI tools and gather feedback from users to identify areas for improvement and optimization. You want to ensure that the tools you employ work well for you and help rather than hinder your productivity. Solicit input from attorneys, clients, and other stakeholders to enhance usability and effectiveness.
  8. Don’t forget ethical issues. Develop an understanding of AI ethics, fairness, and bias to help you make informed decisions about AI usage. Understand the potential of bias in AI algorithms and seek to mitigate them to achieve fair and equitable outcomes. Verify that the AI algorithms used in your office are free from discrimination or unintended biases. Ensure that the AI applications you use adhere to ethical principles and legal standards, including data privacy, confidentiality, fairness, transparency, and accountability. Make sure that you follow the required ethical practices in your use of AI.
  9. Protect your data. Stay informed about relevant laws and regulations governing data privacy and security, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in Europe and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) in the United States. Ensure compliance with applicable requirements. Implement data security measures to protect sensitive information processed by your AI systems. Adhere to regulatory requirements, industry standards, and best practices for data privacy, security, and compliance.
  10. Protect against a cybersecurity breach. Utilize encryption tools to protect sensitive data in transit and at rest. This includes emails, files stored on servers, and all other digital communications. Enforce strong password policies for all devices, applications, and online accounts. Ensure the security of your office WiFi network by using WPA2 or WPA3 encryption. Avoid using public WiFi networks for sensitive work unless you do so through a virtual private network (VPN). Enable multi-factor authentication (MFA) wherever possible to add an extra layer of security to your accounts. This typically involves requiring a second form of verification, such as a code sent to your phone, in addition to a password. Keep all software, including operating systems, antivirus programs, and applications, current, with the latest security patches to protect against known vulnerabilities.
  11. Remote work. Establish clear guidelines and security protocols for remote work, including the use of VPNs, encrypted communication tools, and secure access to office networks and resources.
  12. Incident response. Develop a comprehensive incident response plan with procedures to follow in the event of a cybersecurity breach. Ensure that all staff members understand their roles and responsibilities.
  13. A final piece of advice. One of ChatGPT’s most appealing features, the ability to draft reasonably well-written text, also poses one of ChatGPT’s greatest threats to you. As noted above, AI has no moral compass of its own and has not yet learned the difference between accurate and fictional citations. If you have ChatGPT assist you in writing a document, a brief, or a memorandum, take the time to personally verify the legitimacy and appropriateness of every citation it includes. For whatever value this may have to you, I have not yet seen work product from ChatGPT that I would willingly sign off on without carefully reviewing it, checking all citations, and revising it.

The bottom line is that AI will remain and increase its presence in our personal lives. Familiarize yourself with it as best you can and make informed decisions about when, where, and how to employ AI. Enjoy the benefits and functionalities AI offers, but always protect yourself and your practice against the mistakes AI has historically made.