President’s Message – The Rise of AI Software in Federal Court: Balancing Risks and Benefits

Published: April 10, 2024

By Eric Nordby

Eric NordbyIn the ever-evolving landscape of law, technology has become an indispensable tool, with Artificial Intelligence (AI) software playing an increasingly significant role. In the hallowed halls of federal courtrooms, where precedent and precision are paramount, lawyers are turning to AI software like ChatGPT to streamline their processes, enhance their arguments, and gain a competitive edge. However, with this adoption comes a delicate balance of risks and benefits that practitioners must navigate. Exploring the burgeoning trend of AI software in federal court, and examining its potential pitfalls and rewards, leads me to five takeaways for legal professionals.

1. Efficiency and Productivity

One of the primary benefits of utilizing AI software like ChatGPT in federal court proceedings is the significant boost in efficiency and productivity it offers. Lawyers can leverage AI-powered tools to sift through mountains of legal documents, conduct legal research, and draft complex motions and pleadings in a fraction of the time it would traditionally take. This newfound efficiency not only saves valuable time, but also allows lawyers to focus more on strategic decision-making and client interaction, ultimately enhancing the quality of legal representation.

2. Enhanced Legal Analysis

AI software possesses the capability to analyze vast amounts of legal data and distill it into actionable insights. In federal court, where legal arguments hinge on meticulous analysis and interpretation of statutes, regulations, and case law, AI tools can be invaluable. ChatGPT, for instance, can sift through precedents, statutes, and court opinions to identify relevant legal principles and construct persuasive arguments. This level of legal analysis not only strengthens a lawyer’s case, but also provides a deeper understanding of the legal landscape, enabling more informed decision-making.

3. Mitigating Human Error

While lawyers are highly skilled professionals, they are not immune to human error. In the high-stakes environment of federal court, even minor mistakes can have far-reaching consequences. AI software serves as a powerful tool for mitigating human error by providing real-time feedback, flagging inconsistencies, and offering alternative perspectives. By leveraging AI-powered proofreading and error-checking capabilities, lawyers can minimize the risk of drafting errors, ensuring accuracy and reliability in their legal submissions.

4. Ethical Considerations and Bias

Despite its myriad benefits, the use of AI software in federal court raises very important ethical considerations, particularly regarding bias and fairness. AI algorithms are only as unbiased as the data they are trained on, and without careful oversight, there is a risk of perpetuating or exacerbating existing biases within the legal system. Lawyers must exercise caution when relying on AI-generated insights and critically evaluate the underlying assumptions and methodologies. In addition, there are important ethical implications surrounding the disclosure of AI assistance to opposing counsel and the court, necessitating transparency and candor in legal practice. Some federal trial judges across the U.S. have issued standing orders regarding the use of AI. Likewise, courts in other countries – such as the Federal Court of Canada in December 2023 – have enacted rules that require lawyers to disclose when they have created content generated by AI. The Canadian rule, for example, will require all lawyers to include a written declaration in all submissions to the court when they contain content created or generated by AI. As of this writing, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York has not enacted any local rules, general orders, or standing orders, relating to the use of AI.

5. Adaptation and Learning Curve

As with any emerging technology, integrating AI software into legal practice requires adaptation and a learning curve. While AI tools like ChatGPT can streamline workflows and enhance legal analysis, they are not a panacea. Lawyers must invest time in understanding the capabilities and limitations of AI software, as well as honing their skills to effectively leverage these tools. Moreover, ongoing training and education are essential to staying abreast of advancements in AI technology and ensuring ethical and responsible use in federal court proceedings.

The use of AI software in federal court represents a transformative shift in legal practice, offering unprecedented opportunities for efficiency, productivity, and enhanced legal analysis. However, this adoption is not without its risks and ethical considerations, necessitating careful navigation and oversight by legal professionals. By embracing AI technology responsibly and integrating it judiciously into their practice, lawyers can harness its full potential to deliver superior legal representation in the federal courtroom.