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Written by Huzaifah Sehgal 7:30 pm Opinion, Published Content

AI: The End of the Legal Profession?

The ability of AI to evolve, and provide uncanny human-like responses, is now seeping into professional arenas. Being a lawyer himself, Huzaifah Sehgal ponders upon the effect of AI on the legal profession. He combines the ethical concerns surrounding AI with two foundational legal theories—legal positivism and natural law—to investigate if the displacement of human lawyers is a possibility.
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About the Author(s)
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Mr Huzaifah Sehgal is a lawyer with expertise in international law, technology law, corporate law, environmental law, and constitutional law. 

Artificial Intelligence or AI is the ability of machines or computers to perform tasks that require human intelligence. Although AI has stuck around for good three-quarters of the century, it has never stopped making waves; from reforming industries to reshaping society, AI has brought unprecedented changes to the world. One of the effects of technological advancements by AI is the tremendous alteration in job markets. Having rendered many professionals jobless, will AI be the end of lawyers as well?

The rise of AI has led to many debates and discussions about its potential impact on various industries, including law. While some argue that AI could potentially replace lawyers, others believe that it will only enhance their work and increase efficiency.

While AI can perform tasks like document review and contract analysis more quickly and accurately than humans, it cannot replace the critical thinking, empathy, and judgment that lawyers bring to their work. Therefore, it is unlikely that AI will be the end of lawyers, but it will certainly change the way they work and require them to adapt to new technologies in order to stay competitive in the legal industry.

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The preceding paragraph that you have just read is not written by me but is an AI-generated response by ChatGPT, so let’s just rethink our biases and the things we would want to believe. AI is by far, one of the mightiest inventions of mankind with the likes of Elon Musk believing that it will be the reason behind World War III. The way AI is transforming the world is truly extraordinary; from powering driverless cars to an efficacious diagnosis of illnesses, there is no field left that is not affected by AI.

Its ability to learn and continue to evolve with time is an indication that AI’s might will only grow, to such an extent that it will radically transform every aspect of our work, life, and our world, thus instilling the concern that Franklin Foer raised in his World Without Mind that technological advancements threaten our culture, individuality, and our minds.

In January, news surfaced that the first-ever robot lawyer would contest speeding tickets on behalf of two defendants. This announcement was immediately pinned down by critics on the ethicality of unlicensed practice of law which was subsequently transmogrified into a class action lawsuit against the company, Do Not Pay AI. Nevertheless, the company is still very much active in providing online free legal services without any license or a system of checks and balances.

What redressal might one be entitled to if advice from Do Not Pay AI is “negligent” or “adverse” to the interests of the person seeking it? Does Do Not Pay AI have a duty to the court? Is there any “attorney-client privilege”? Do such softwares owe a duty of care to their “clients”? If AI is allowed to render legal services without a license, should the same perk be extended to humans, considering that humans are technically the ones who designed this? These are just some of the questions which dawned on me, and surely there are no clear answers to any of these questions.

If softwares like Do Not Pay AI are able to render legal advice and representation, will it be the end of lawyers? This requires consideration of two of the leading theories of the nature of law: legal positivism and natural law. Law graduates might be familiar with these terms; however, to clear things up for the ones who are not that familiar with these concepts, I will be providing a summary of these two theories.

In order to understand why we follow the law, legal jurists came up with two conflicting theories as to the nature of law: legal positivism and natural law. As per the legal positivists, the law needs to be obeyed as it is the law. In other words, if something has been passed by the relevant legislature, it shall be followed notwithstanding its unethical or immoral concerns.

In stark contrast to the above, natural lawyers assert that the law is to be followed because it is morality-driven. Natural lawyers asseverate that if a law is immoral, it is not law. But what do these theories have to do with AI replacing lawyers? If the nature of law was positive, then AI will be able to dominate this field as well, displacing not only lawyers but judges too. The relevant procedures, laws, and case laws will be fed as data to AI and it will, whilst applying the law to the particular facts, predict and give legal advice or arguments as a lawyer might do.

However, if the nature of law is what natural lawyers state it is, then AI might not be able to completely replace humans in the legal field as someone would have to make the moral choices or decisions. Someone, in particular, a human lawyer, will have to lay down all the possible legal options available to the client and then advise as to which option is the most viable one. Will AI be able to do this; lay down all necessary legal options and then choose which one is the best considering all other reasons for actions, such as ethics, morals, and practice?

The singularitarians propose that AI can very much do all of this, including making moral decisions if provided with the relevant data set. For this, we must exactly know what morality is, but do we know that? What is morality? Who defines it? Is it universal? Is it culture-specific? Is it religion-specific? If we, ourselves are unable to adequately know what morality is, how are we supposed to define it for AI?

There is no doubt that morality is, to a great extent, culture-specific, and it is very much possible for there to be some standardization of moral norms within that culture. It is also very possible for us to jot down these norms and provide them to AI so that it is able to make prescriptive and descriptive assessments. However, there is one issue with this; AI cannot go out of the box and it never will, because of its nature.

AI cannot make a substantive moral decision as it lacks the capacity for independent thinking. So if an AI lawyer or judge were to provide legal advice or make a decision which revolved around contradicting moral norms, how would it go by it? We know that honor killing is wrong, but there is a mass chunk of people who honestly believe that it is the right thing to do in certain circumstances. If AI is tuned with the cultural specificity of Pakistan, will it convict or acquit the person who killed another in the name of honor? This is where independent moral reasoning is required for both the lawyers as well as judges, which AI is incapable of providing.

Is it then time to put legal positivism to bed once and for all? Undoubtedly, AI has the ability to gravely alter the course of history, and it has certainly done so in many regards. While the clash between legal positivism and natural law is likely to persist till eternity, there is no denying that law, at least to some extent, has a touch of morality. AI’s might is still unknown, but it will never be able to displace human lawyers or judges as it cannot make substantive moral decisions or exercise independent thinking because of its innate disposition.

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The views and opinions expressed in this article/paper are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Paradigm Shift.

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