California Bar Association publishes guidelines for members on use of generative AI

In the United States, the State Bar of California has just published a practical guide for its members on the use of generative artificial intelligence in the legal profession. Among its main recommendations: lawyers should ‘correct’ information supplied by software and not bill clients for hours saved due to AI.

Posted mardi, novembre 28 2023
California Bar Association publishes guidelines for members on use of generative AI

Confidentiality, diligence, professional duty… these and many other subjects are treated in a document issued by the State Bar of California outlining best practices for lawyers when incorporating artificial intelligence into their work. In publishing the guidelines, the Bar Association aims to provide clarity over the use of generative AI in the profession – something it says has been lacking up to now.      

Home to Silicon Valley, California is the tech capital of the United States, and so it is not surprising to see the Golden State’s bar association take the lead in addressing the subject of AI in the legal profession. The guidelines, published earlier this month by the association’s office of professional competence, cover nine themes, with working practices and confidentiality taking pride of place.

On confidentiality, it is recommended that lawyers “anonymize client information” inputed into a generative AI solution, “and avoid entering details that can be used to identify the client.” Before using a generative AI solution, a lawyer must have a perfect understanding of the terms and conditions which apply.

As regards diligence, a lawyer must understand how a piece of software works before using it in the exercise of their professional duties and needs to “critically review, validate, and correct both the input and the output of generative AI” just as they would the work of a flesh and blood assistant. “A lawyer’s professional judgment cannot be delegated to generative AI and remains the lawyer’s responsibility at all times,” reads the document.

The State Bar of California also stresses the importance of transparency and communication with the client on any use of AI in legal services provided, not least when it comes to billing, adding they “must not charge hourly fees for the time saved by using generative AI.”

The guidelines came in the wake of a survey by Wolters Kluwer carried out among lawyers in the United States and Europe, which found that 73% of those polled expressed an intention to incorporate generative AI into their activities in the years to come.

Indeed, the professional services company itself intends to incorporate generative AI into its Legisway software from 2024.

By putting the emphasis on oversight, The State Bar of California’s best practices on the use of AI are sure to alleviate – somewhat – concerns over the impact generative AI might have on the integrity of the legal profession. It remains to be seen if they will act as a blueprint for future regulations on the use of AI by lawyers.