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AI in our legal system - should we be concerned or interested?

AI in our legal system - should we be concerned or interested?

Matthew Biggerstaff


Reading time: four minutes

AI in law is a curious concept. Take a sector that’s, rightly or wrongly, greatly impacted by human perception and feelings, strip it of everything that’s subjective and you have the legal system under AI in the perhaps not-so-distant future. 

So, is this something to be excited about? Taking flaws from a system and making it entirely based on the facts, following precedents and legislation to a T. Let’s weigh up some of the considerations (because we’d need a dissertation-length blog post to discuss them all!) on the future of AI in the legal system. 

Emotion/human nature 

When you’re sitting on a jury potentially getting ready to find out if someone’s life is about to be irreparably changed forever, it’s only human to feel some kind of empathy or hesitancy. Perhaps the person sitting trial has taken some form of justice into their own hands, and something about the their story resonates with you and the eleven others sitting beside you. In this instance, it’s long been found that jury nullification, finding someone you believe to be guilty, not guilty, is compatible within the rule of law.  

Now imagine that AI takes the role of the jury in this instance. There’ll be no emotion or opinion on the law or actions of the defendant – just the application of facts. This creates a muddy patch in how criminal cases especially would be perceived by a form of AI. This is, of course, a purely hypothetical scenario, as AI is far from taking the seat of a jury member in a courtroom. However, it highlights how the fundamentals of a justice system may be changed by a fact-finding and fact-applying machine.  

There’s more on AI with this article: ‘Wrestle with PESTLE: AI regulation and the Bletchley Summit’.


Despite how astonishingly quickly AI appears to be growing, it’s still very much in its infancy. AI in the legal system isn’t yet widespread, especially not to any significant degree. However, as AI grows and perhaps becomes more commonplace, there’s every chance that it might be able to work its way into firms, chambers and courts alike.  

You might not think of it as such, but even legal database sites are a form of AI, scouring the database and bringing you information based on your request. In 2003 American lawyer Steven Schwartz relied on ChatGPT, the most well-known and popular AI tool among the general population, to bring him judicial precedents for a case on personal injury. The AI tool provided him with seven cases, though unfortunately for Mr Schwarz, six of them were entirely made up by the AI tool. The judge in Mr Schwartz’s trial stated that this was an “unprecedented issue”.

Legal accessibility 

Though we have discussed AI’s impact within the legal system, many people outside of the legal sector will, and are, using AI in order to help answer their concerns and questions they have about their own situations.  

At a time in which many are struggling to meet ongoing increasing financial demands, people who have legal concerns simply cannot afford to instruct a solicitor. Therefore, they may turn to what appears to be a genius piece of technology available to answer any question. The case of Steven Schwartz has already proven that these technologies can often be incorrect and, as such, can potentially mislead those with extremely serious legal issues.

There’s a very valid concern that AI is currently accessible but inconsistent. The tool cannot only take work away from real legal professionals, but can potentially incorrectly advise those who desperately need help. It’s important that those who need legal advice are getting it from a reliable source. Increasingly more law clinics are becoming available for free, while barristers and solicitors are constantly fighting for the expansion of legal aid.

Overall, AI in its current state is far from replacing key figures in the legal justice system. However, as more and more advances are being made at a rapid pace, it’s quite unpredictable where it may end up. Though what we can say with certainty is: if you're a qualified lawyer, don’t use ChatGPT to find your precedents!