American Bar Association launches task force to investigate how AI will affect legal practice

updated on 31 August 2023

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The American Bar Association (ABA) has created a task force to address how artificial intelligence (AI) will affect legal practice, with a focus on six “critical” issues, including AI and legal education, and AI and access to justice.

President of the ABA, Mary Smith, said the task force will look at “both the promise and the peril of emerging technologies”, with the mission to:

  • address the impact of AI on the legal profession and the practice of law;
  • provide insights on developing and using AI in a trustworthy and responsible manner; and
  • identify ways to address AI risks.

The task force will be chaired by Lucy Thomson, an attorney and cybersecurity engineer in Washington DC, and will explore, among other things, the risks associated with using the technology, such as bias, cybersecurity, privacy and the issue of spreading disinformation. It’ll also look at AI’s place in governance and legal education, considering how it’ll impact the creation and role of laws and regulations, and its role in legal education.

Thomson said: “The AI task force will focus on current and emerging issues in AI and provide practical information that lawyers need to stay abreast of and navigate this complex technology.”

Meanwhile, as law firms continue to grapple with the challenges and opportunities brought about by AI, Thomson Reuters recently produced The Future of Professionals Report – a study that’s based on insights from 1,200 legal and tax professionals in the US, UK, Canada and South America and “underscores the tremendous opportunity AI presents”. According to the research, two-thirds of respondents said they believe there’ll be an increase in work carried out by individuals without traditional legal qualifications due to AI between the next 18 months and five years. Meanwhile, 30% of the professionals interviewed said their biggest concerns regarding AI were around data security (15%) and ethics (15%), while nearly half (48%) of professionals predicted that the use of AI will lower costs for firms, thus increasing firm profitability.

The report also found that the two biggest hopes for AI supporting professionals in achieving their goals were improvements in overall productivity and efficiency at work (45%), and freeing up time to work on higher-level tasks (38%).

In the report’s foreword, Steve Hasker, CEO and president, said: “Generative AI will have a transformational impact on the work professionals do and how it is done, but it will never replace the human element when advising clients and stakeholders. People have been, are, and will continue to be the number one asset in any business.”