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Ethical Problems in the Practice of Law (Aspen Casebook)

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Ethical Problems in the Practice of Law, Concise Fourth Edition

Search my Subject Specializations: Select In some ways, nothing has changed. The general ethical duties of lawyers remain constant across technologies. And AI is not new to the legal profession, as Dr. Think of natural-language searching for online legal research, or the use of predictive coding in ediscovery. In other ways, everything has changed.

Stephen Parker and Charles Sampford

AI and other innovative technologies are creating, and will continue to create, novel situations that are not explicitly addressed in the rules of legal ethics — and that the drafters of these rules never even imagined. Take, for example, social media.

Ethical Dilemmas: Can I Represent Family and Friends in Other States?

The original rules governing lawyer advertising and client communication were drafted well before the age of Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Artificial intelligence is another area where the rules of legal ethics are playing catch-up with the technology. Here are some of the ethical issues raised by AI. As lawyers rely more and more on AI and other technologies, and as those tools become more advanced and more complex, lawyers must be sure that they understand how those technologies work.

How much does a lawyer need to know about what goes on inside that black box? Lawyers are not computer scientists or technologists, and nobody would expect them to appreciate the algorithm-level workings of AI systems. But at the same time, they must have some basic understanding of how the tools they utilize generally work. Perhaps the most widely discussed example of balancing the risks and rewards of artificial intelligence is the self-driving car.

Far from being a rote exercise, programming an autonomous vehicle involves difficult choices that will generate extensive ethical and legal debate in the years ahead. In fact, these debates are already taking place, in the legislatures of the plus states that have passed, or have considered passing, laws to govern self-driving cars.


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Depending on who or what a lawyer works with, the duty of competence includes a duty of supervision. And this duty extends to AI-based tools. One way of analyzing the issue is that the lawyer who reviews and signs off has appropriately supervised the AI. And just as there are some tasks that a lawyer simply cannot delegate to a paralegal or legal assistant, there are some tasks that are not appropriate for handling by artificial intelligence — and an attorney must know how to tell them apart. Tonya Custis, a Research Director at Thomson Reuters who leads a team of research scientists developing natural-language and search technologies for legal research.

So the question becomes: where do we draw that line? It plows through huge amounts of data to suggest the relevance of a case — but the lawyer still has to decide that this case is actually relevant. The AI augments, but does not replace, the work of the lawyer. Just as lawyers can over-delegate work to subordinates, they can also under-delegate, causing them to serve their clients less efficiently.


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In the context of artificial intelligence, one can imagine underutilization of AI — for example, a lawyer not using AI even though it could help that lawyer serve the client better. In fact, given some of the psychological attributes commonly associated with lawyers — a focus on detail, a desire for control, an aversion to risk — the greater danger might very well be underutilization of, rather than overreliance upon, artificial intelligence.

In this webinar, David Curle of Thomson Reuters provides background information on artificial intelligence and discusses the many different ways that AI is being used in the legal world:. To download the slides used in this webinar, enter your email here:. Messaging with people on social media is no exception, and again because social media inherently involves such a high level of interactivity, it should always be managed with care to avoid creating an attorney-client relationship inadvertently.

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Ethical Problems in the Practice of Law (Aspen Casebook) | Attorney–Client Privilege | Lawyer

Social media encourages connecting and interacting with people all over the world. This means your posts and Tweets can be wide-reaching, and may be viewed by people in other states or countries. For lawyers, this can potentially create an ethical concern regarding the unauthorized practice of law. Attorneys should always be aware of this fact, and avoid posting anything on social media which may be deemed to constitute legal advice.

Because the readers of your social media posts might be in other jurisdictions, your communications on social media might be deemed as practicing law in an outside jurisdiction where you are not licensed.