As law firms set up practices to advise clients on the use of artificial intelligence, and regulators across the world introduce laws that will govern the rapidly evolving technology, it’s becoming increasingly clear that law schools will need to adapt their programs to help students prepare for their future careers, which will be shaped by such technology.
Some law firms have started using generative AI -- the technology behind ChatGPT -- to help their own lawyers with mundane research and writing assignments. “Firms and lawyers that don’t use generative AI to help their lawyers with simple writing assignments and even more complex analysis are going to be losing out,” says Michele DeStefano, a Professor of Law at Miami Law and Guest Faculty at Harvard Law School and IE Law School.
“But the problem is that, right now, a lot of people don't really understand the value that these generative AI tools can add. They don’t get that it is not supposed to be used as a glorified research tool.”
Instead, she argues that generative AI can actually help change the tone of a memo or brief. “One of the things lawyers often get wrong is that they don’t provide legal advice in the way the client wants. It might have a lot of legalese and be too long or contain too much detail. Generative AI tools can help a lawyer change the tone to make sure that a memo is written in business language with the client in mind,” DeStefano adds.
Will ChatGPT put lawyers out of a job?
The launch of ChatGPT in November has triggered a wave of investment into AI technologies, and resurfaced anxiety over the technology’s’ threat to jobs. But law school professors do not think legal expertise itself will be replaced by AI, suggesting the jobs of their LL.M. graduates are safe.
“For basic legal information and its application, generative AI is going to be a great tool, and we won’t need lawyers for that. But the value that lawyers give is their advice as it relates to their interpretation and analysis of the law and how it’s been applied in the past and their prediction for how it will be applied in the future,” explains DeStefano.
“So I don’t believe this part of what lawyers do (especially combined with the business and commercial consulting that lawyers tie into the advice they give clients) is going to be replaced by generative AI anytime in the very near future.”
In fact, it could be generating new work for tech-savvy lawyers, as the proliferation of AI has raised ethical questions about algorithmic bias as well as concerns over copyright and licensing, particularly around AI-created images. Law schools, therefore, see a role for their graduates in advising clients on the use of AI, particularly as politicians scramble to introduce rules to keep the technology in check.
“The U.S. is just beginning to look at regulating AI. For example, New York City has adopted a local law that will place disclosure and other requirements on companies looking to use AI and related data analytics tools in employment decisions,” says Matthew D’Amore, Director of the Law, Technology and Entrepreneurship Program at Cornell Law School and Cornell Tech.
At the same time, emerging uses of AI are running into “old” laws, raising questions about how the existing laws apply to the new technologies. “For example, content creators and copyright owners are suing certain generative AI tools over their use of copyrighted content in training. Lawyers who know the technology and know the legal regimes will be essential in helping companies manage the business risks when using or developing these new tools,” says D’Amore.
How AI will change LL.M. programs
So, what do LL.M. candidates need to know about this technology to get ahead in their future careers, and how can they acquire this knowledge while at law school?
“Law students need to learn to be better than the bots. They need to learn how to use these tools effectively in their work, to show how they as lawyers can add value to employers and clients on top of what the technology can offer, and, just as importantly, learn how to advise clients around the use of these technologies,” says D’Amore.
DeStefano says that all law school students should be taking courses on generative AI to understand its purposes and to find ways to use it to be better at their future jobs. “Of course, they need to cite it so that it’s used ethically,” she adds. In fact, the University of Miami School of Law is looking into developing a course for next year that would help students to do exactly that.
“It would help lawyers understand more not just about generative AI itself but how these tools can be used to complement and help improve a lawyer’s practice and enhance how they deliver advice and service,” says DeStefano.