Why Lawyers Must Responsibly Embrace Generative AI

51 Pages Posted: 14 Jun 2023 Last revised: 4 Mar 2024

See all articles by Natalie Pierce

Natalie Pierce

Gunderson Dettmer; Columbia Law School; UC Berkeley

Stephanie Goutos

Gunderson Dettmer; Albany Law School; The College of Saint Rose

Date Written: June 14, 2023


“AI won't replace lawyers, but lawyers who use AI will replace lawyers who don't.”

The legal industry is on the brink of transformative change, driven by the power of artificial intelligence (AI). The release of OpenAI’s ChatGPT at the end of 2022 triggered a global AI race that has been transforming society. Microsoft’s Vice Chairman, Brad Smith, equated generative AI (GenAI) with the invention of the internet. This technology is predicted by many to potentially overshadow some of the most significant technological advances in history. Amid this evolving landscape, a unique challenge emerged for legal professionals.

While the legal industry is traditionally risk averse and historically slow to adopt new technologies, it has nevertheless been impacted by various technological advancements over time. However, the extraordinary pace at which GenAI has impacted a wide range of industries pushed the legal industry to accelerate its response and embrace technological change with a new sense of urgency. The American Bar Association (ABA) Model Rules of Professional Conduct (the “Rules” or “Model Rules”) reinforce this imperative, mandating lawyers to stay informed about relevant technologies in order to provide competent representation to clients. This has, unsurprisingly, sparked much debate among professionals, with some experts raising serious associated risks and concerns with the widespread integration of this technology into the practice of law.

This leads to a dilemma for the legal profession: Should it maintain its traditional technological gatekeeping approach or fully embrace GenAI? On one hand, this technology offers the potential to revolutionize the practice of law. On the other hand, it presents significant challenges, including the risk of generating biased or inaccurate information. It also raises complex ethical dilemmas in areas like client confidentiality and professional conduct.

This article advocates for the responsible adoption of GenAI within the legal field, highlighting its potential to significantly improve the practice of law. We explore several real-world applications showcasing how organizations have successfully integrated GenAI into their operations, while also managing the associated risks. We explore the myriad of advantages GenAI can bring to the legal industry, but also confront the common arguments against its adoption. Our discussion extends to strategies for effective risk management and legal compliance, emphasizing the challenges associated with adopting GenAI while preserving the principles and values that define the legal profession. Most importantly, we provide a comprehensive framework to aid legal professionals in navigating the complexities of GenAI adoption while maintaining alignment with legal, ethical, and industry standards and best practices. We propose specific recommendations for training programs, policy development, and practical guidelines to guide legal professionals through the complexities of GenAI adoption.

Keywords: Generative AI, GenAI, AI, artificial intelligence, legal industry, law firms, innovation, legal technology, attorneys, legal profession, generative artificial intelligence, chatgpt, risk management in AI, AI risks, legal efficiency, legal ethics, law firm innovation, AI governance, legal training

JEL Classification: K00, O33, J24, L86, O32, K40

Suggested Citation

Pierce, Natalie and Goutos, Stephanie, Why Lawyers Must Responsibly Embrace Generative AI (June 14, 2023). Berkeley Business Law Journal, Vol. 21, No. 2, 2024, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4477704 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4477704

Natalie Pierce

Gunderson Dettmer ( email )

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San Francisco, CA 94104
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415-978-9803 (Phone)
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HOME PAGE: http://www.gunder.com

Columbia Law School ( email )

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NEW YORK, NY 10027
212-854-2640 (Phone)

UC Berkeley ( email )

310 Barrows Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States
510-642-6000 (Phone)

Stephanie Goutos (Contact Author)

Gunderson Dettmer ( email )

220 W. 42nd Street
17th Floor
New York, NY 10036
United States

Albany Law School ( email )

80 New Scotland Avenue
Albany, NY 12208
United States

The College of Saint Rose ( email )

United States

HOME PAGE: http://https://www.strose.edu/

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