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Is Artificial Intelligence Ready to Help with Legal Research?


As a techno geek I’ve been fascinated by the concept of Artificial Intelligence (or “AI” as it also known). Maybe it’s the Star Trek-iness of it, but the I like idea of having a bot do some of the work for me. The advertising for Google’s Bard AI system says it can help you write your novel. In a recent article a Londoner asked Bard to plan a weekend in London (including what they should wear!). Even if you don’t get the information you were hoping for, at least it provides for an amusing anecdote.

Lately I’ve seen articles published about using AI to aid in legal research and was wondering what the consensus was about using an AI platform to do legal research.

Above the Law has an interesting piece on how AI is transforming legal research, including a brief history of legal research all the way back to the “Unwieldy Rocks” of Hammurabi’s Code.

This article from Jolt Law addresses ways AI could widen the gap for equal justice. For instance, a large percentage of pro-se litigants do not speak English, which is the primary language of AI driven technology. Another problem is that the best AI technology is expensive and only large law firms can afford it. This leaves self-represented litigants without access to the technology.

In a Wired article about “Harvey” a law focused AI tool, the author described one of the problems with AI as it stands now:

“But the problems with current generations of generative AI have already started to show. Most significantly, their tendency to confidently make things up—or “hallucinate.” That is problematic enough in search, but in the law, the difference between success and failure can be serious, and costly.”

Indeed, Bard has a disclaimer addressing this: “Bard is experimental, and some of the responses may be inaccurate, so double-check information in Bard’s responses.”

It seems that using AI for legal research might hold some promise in the future, especially for lawyers wanting to automate some time-consuming tasks. But for the non-lawyer who might be doing research for their own problem, it doesn’t seem like AI is quite ready for prime time.

As we always tell our patrons “We aren’t lawyers. We can only show you how to do research. Only a lawyer can give you legal advice.” Think of AI bots as law librarians – they aren’t lawyers. As law librarian Don MacLeod says in the Above the Law article “Google is a good place to start your research, but a terrible place to end it.”

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