In a recent article entitled, “A.I. Is Coming for Lawyers, Again” the New York Times explored the longstanding idea that the legal profession is most at risk of being disrupted by A.I. The article claimed that: “There are warnings that ChatGPT-style software, with its humanlike language fluency, could take over much of legal work.” And that: “Law is seen as the lucrative profession perhaps most at risk from the recent advance in A.I. because lawyers are essentially word merchants.”
The problem with these predictions is that they are based on a fundamental misunderstanding of what lawyers do, which is primarily to provide sound advice and formulate sophisticated strategy. All the wordsmithing in the world won’t make a bad case good, or vice versa. Lawyers do not have a Jedi mind trick. We analyze the facts, we make the best arguments possible under the circumstances, we advise our clients on their prospects, and we come up with a strategy for an optimal outcome, which almost always includes a path towards settlement. We are strategists and trusted advisors. Not wordsmithers.
This is not anything ChatGPT or current A.I. can do, or even come close to doing. And how do I know that? Because in a recent Wall Street Journal article, experts on self-driving cars explain that A.I. is nowhere close to being able to drive a car autonomously. In an article entitled “When Will Cars Be Fully Self-Driving?” the experts explain that the main impediment to fully autonomous vehicles is how dumb A.I. is. As one of the leading experts explains, fully autonomous cars “would require human-level artificial intelligence, and there is no commonly accepted theory on how to get there. As long as there is no human-level AI, autonomous mobility will be limited.”
So let me get this straight. A.I. is not smart enough to drive a car, but it’s smart enough to replace lawyers? Every attorney and paralegal should feel insulted. The reality is that A.I. is a powerful tool for drafting basic documents. As a friend that owns a prominent immigration firm told me, A.I. is going to upend certain administrative law areas, and he is working on creating that software for the immigration field. But he also gave me some great advice regarding an immigration issue that ChatGPT couldn’t dream of providing.
For our firm, we do use A.I., and have for some time, to draft basic discovery and pleadings. It saves our paralegals a little bit of time and creates enough efficiency to be worth the trouble of reviewing and fixing the content that is produced. The paralegals and attorneys still need to use their gray matter to prepare effective discovery. But A.I. helps a little, and over time, it will help more. It is like the sophisticated word processor of the 2020s. But it is not a lawyer or a paralegal, and it won’t be anytime soon. So, rest easy good lawyers and paralegals. Your job is safe for the foreseeable future, and probably for your lifetime.