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By Candice Murray / Associate Designate / Mooney Ford Attorneys

The emergence of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is reshaping the legal industry, bringing about new levels of efficiency, precision, and innovation. As law firms worldwide adapt to this technological shift, AI’s impact extends beyond administrative tasks. Particularly noteworthy is the use of AI-generated evidence in court cases, which would mark a significant milestone in the legal field.


AI-Generated Evidence: Advancing Forensic Analysis

A groundbreaking application of AI in law is its potential use of AI-generated evidence in court cases. This evidence, derived from complex analyses by AI algorithms, is increasingly valued for its ability to uncover truths that human efforts might miss. For example, AI’s capacity to analyse vast data from digital devices could transform forensic investigations, facilitating the extraction and interpretation of crucial data patterns pivotal in criminal cases.

Furthermore, AI can be instrumental in analysing video and audio recordings. Through advanced machine learning techniques, AI can enhance low-quality surveillance footage, isolate speech from noisy backgrounds, and authenticate audio recordings. Such capabilities will prove invaluable in providing concrete evidence in various legal scenarios, from validating alibis to identifying perpetrators.


Assisting lawyers: Saving time and money

AI has the potential to significantly assist law firms in various aspects of their practice.

In discovery, AI-powered tools can streamline the process by quickly analysing large volumes of data, identifying relevant information, and categorizing documents based on relevance and privilege. This can save valuable time and resources for law firms, allowing them to focus on more strategic aspects of the case. In contract and document review, AI can improve accuracy and efficiency by automatically flagging potential issues, such as missing clauses or non-compliance with regulations. This can help lawyers identify risks and ensure that contracts are drafted correctly. Additionally, AI can be used to identify repeat offenders by analysing patterns in legal cases and identifying individuals or organizations that have a history of similar offenses.


AI hallucinations

While AI has tremendous potential in enhancing legal practice, its integration also raises concerns. The possibility of inaccuracies in AI-generated content, often referred to as “hallucination,” is a significant issue. When used in legal processes, such inaccuracies can lead to negligence and shortcuts in legal research and document preparation. This, in turn, can damage the reputation of the legal profession and undermine public trust in the justice system.

A notable example of generative AI misuse occurred in the 2023 US case Mata v Avianca.

When Avianca sought to have the case against it dismissed, Mr. Mata’s lawyers strongly objected, submitting a 10-page brief that referenced more than half a dozen relevant court decisions.

However, there was a significant issue: None of the decisions or quotations cited and summarized in the brief could be located by the airline’s lawyers or the judge. This was because ChatGPT had fabricated everything.

This oversight led to the dismissal of their client’s case, sanctions against the lawyers for bad faith conduct, fines imposed on them and their firm, and public scrutiny of their actions.

A recent case heard in the Johannesburg Regional Court has underscored the risks associated with employing ChatGPT in legal contexts and highlighted the critical importance of dependable legal technology solutions.

The case involved a plaintiff suing her body corporate for defamation. During the proceedings, it was revealed that the plaintiff’s legal representative had utilized ChatGPT for legal research, leading to the generation of a fabricated citation. Magistrate Arvin Chaitram, presiding over the matter, identified the fraudulent citation and imposed a punitive cost order on the legal representative. He emphasized the necessity of blending the efficiency of modern technology with traditional, independent reading in legal research, stating that the incident’s embarrassment was likely punishment enough for the plaintiff’s attorneys.


Moving Forward: AI as a Collaborator in Legal Practice

As AI continues to shape the legal landscape, it is clear that its role is not to replace human legal practitioners but to enhance their capabilities. AI’s ability to process and analyse information offers lawyers and judges powerful tools to make more informed decisions. However, the integration of AI into legal practice requires a continuous effort to understand its limitations, potential biases, and ethical implications.

The future of AI in the legal field hinges on a balanced approach that leverages its strengths while mitigating risks. Ongoing education, collaboration between technologists and legal professionals, and the development of legal frameworks that adapt to technological advancements are essential steps in harnessing the potential of AI. As legal firms navigate these uncharted waters, the focus must remain on ensuring justice, equity, and transparency in an increasingly AI-driven legal landscape.


Photo by Steve Johnson on Unsplash