Scottish lawyer warns of ‘ethical concerns’ and lack of regulation in using AI

26/06/2023
Stephen Grant (WJM)

A SCOTTISH solicitor has warned that the growing use of AI technology and a lack of regulations on its use in business may lead legal professionals to inadvertently breach ethical obligations.

AI has found its way into various aspects of legal practice, including contract analysis, legal research, due diligence, predictive analytics and document automation. 

However, despite the growing prevalence of AI in legal practice, no formal legislation yet governs its use, which raises concerns about the law’s ability to keep pace with technological advancements.

The UK government is taking a different approach to AI regulation than in the EU. The UK has championed a sector-based framework – but as yet no specific legislation exists, only guidance.

Stephen Grant, a Solicitor who specialises in Corporate, Commercial and IT work at Wright, Johnston & Mackenzie LLP (WJM) highlighted the potential disadvantages of employing bots such as ChatGPT when conducting legal research, shedding light on the associated risks.

Stephen said: “The emergence of ChatGPT has exposed the legal community to the many potential benefits of AI, including its various efficiencies. However, the legal profession tends to follow traditional ways of working, and often exhibits resistance to new ideas.

“I anticipate that all lawyers will find some way to benefit from AI in the future, but we as a profession must address the potential misuse and ethical concerns associated.

“For example, if you start using it in mortgage applications then AI could learn discrimination from you. Areas of social deprivation that are frequently damaged, vandalised or undersold then might automatically generate – without human interaction – that we need to increase the premiums there or charge more in those areas; severely affecting those most vulnerable and at risk in our society.

“The AI system itself lacks the inherent understanding that certain actions may be unfair or discriminatory, as its primary objective is to optimise and strive for the most favourable outcomes within its capabilities.

“It has no morals or values, and trying to program AI networks with human emotions presents a distinct challenge.”

His warning follows a recent incident involving a long-standing New York lawyer who employed an AI tool for case research, referencing non-existent judicial decisions produced by ChatGPT for research in a personal injury claim he was filing for on behalf of a client.

As a result, the lawyer now faces a sizeable lawsuit and the potential of being struck off.

Language model chatbot ChatGPT creates original text on request but comes with warnings that it can “produce inaccurate information.”

Stephen also believes data protection will prove to be an issue when it comes to using AI in the legal profession and warned that hacking incidents are not a matter of if, but when – potentially exposing sensitive information that users have entrusted to the AI network. 

He continued:  “There are some obvious legal ramifications in this area. How do you sue an AI system? And who is really to blame – the users who input the data or the creators of AI software being used? Answering these important questions proves to be increasingly complex.”

“We have witnessed similar legal battles involving other social media platforms where they face daily lawsuits for users’ actions. This issue is likely to resurface in the context of AI.

“There is not any formal legislation surrounding the use of AI yet and the problem with the law is that it’s so slow to catch up with technology.”

“The counter argument to that however could be, can we not use AI to catch up quicker?”  

For more information on WJM go to www.wjm.co.uk.   

The Latest Stories

Aberdeen-based COMET pitches to South Korea’s biggest maritime corporations
David Murray Associates joins forces with Space Solutions
University seeks applications from AI innovators for world-leading business support programme
Hypervine launches unlimited satellite survey service for the mining industry