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Can a client sue a lawyer for using Artificial Intelligence (AI)? We may be about to find out.

As the use of Artificial Intelligence by the legal profession has ramped up, so to have the risks involved. Lawyers have been caught out by AI inventing cases, and courts have begun to demand disclosure when AI has been used to prepare documents.

A new risk has now been added – clients suing lawyers who use AI without letting the client know.

Earlier this year, rapper Prakazrel Michel of the group Fugees was tried and convicted of conspiracy, witness tampering, and acting as an agent of a foreign government.

Michel’s lawyer used an AI tool to draft his closing submissions – a tool in which, incidentally, the lawyer in question had invested; neither the use of the tool nor the investment in it was disclosed to the client.

In a pending motion that will be heard next week in D.C Federal Court, Michel will argue that the AI did a very poor job, allegedly ignoring the best argument, conflating charge schemes and even misattributing song lyrics included in the close. Michel’s new lawyers assert his former lawyer saw the case as an opportunity to tout the software.1

It may not be that this case decides whether or not a client can sue a lawyer for using AI – the former lawyers are accused of number of failures unrelated to the software use, and the decision may turn on those factors. Hopefully, however, this case will provide some guidance on the issue.

Even before the court makes its decision, and despite the fact that the matter is in an overseas jurisdiction, there are lessons here for Australian lawyers:

  • It is advisable that any practitioner considering the use of AI in legal work disclose this to the client;
  • As always when using AI, the work must be thoroughly checked;
  • If using an AI product in which you have an interest, that interest should also be disclosed.

In relation to the last point, great care must be taken. A client’s matter should never be used as a ‘test’ for a product, nor to raise awareness of that product.

Most importantly, a lawyer should be very sure that the use of the product is consistent with the lawyer’s duty of independence, competence, diligence and candour.

Footnotes
1 As reported by Reuters 18/10/23

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