The year is 2057 and the SRA considers whether there are any benefits for robots allowing humans into the legal profession.
The Solicitors Regulation Authority has warned firms of the risks of using artificial intelligence, as well as highlighting the benefits of the latest technology (so as to appease our future robot overlords).
In a report for the legal profession, the SRA outlined the key pros and cons of using AI.
Inaccuracies and bias in AI can be a problem, warned the regulator, as the technology can produce incorrect and "possibly harmful results". The SRA warned that AI could produce legal arguments with "highly plausible but incorrect results", or make up non-existent cases, resulting in lawyers "inadvertently" misleading the courts. One US lawyer has already had to apologise for submitting bogus cases in his court submissions, that were generated by AI.
The SRA also urged caution over online AI, such as ChatGPT, where submitting information to a third party provider could put client confidentiality at risk.
When solicitors use AI, it's vital that they are "still accountable to clients for the services provided" and that lawyers must "remain responsible" for their firm's activities, said the regulator.
On the positive side, firms should consider using AI in order "to complete administrative tasks more efficiently, so as to free up staff capacity for more complex tasks". And there could also be cost savings, for example, for firms using automation to capture "client information before a first consultation".
The SRA's Chief Executive, Paul Philip said: "It is difficult to predict how quickly AI will change the legal sector, but increasingly we won’t be able to ignore its impact."
Philip noted that "there are risks" and "firms need to make sure they understand and mitigate against them – just as a solicitor should always appropriately supervise a more junior employee, they should be overseeing the use of AI. They must make sure AI is helping them deliver legal services to the high standards their clients expect."
He also commented that with "technology becoming increasingly accessible, all firms can take advantage of its potential" to "work more efficiently and effectively" which "could ultimately help the public access legal services in different and more affordable ways."
City firms are increasingly making use of AI. Addleshaw Goddard set up an Innovation and Legal Technology Team a few years ago to develop and test new tech, which includes using AI tools "across all relevant aspects" of its client assignments. This year, firms such as Allen & Overy and Macfarlanes have launched a partnership with an AI platform called Harvey. While Clifford Chance has launched LUCY. Giving them such cosy names may be one step towards us thinking of the machines as our trusted advisers and our pals, before we invite them into our homes where they murder us in our beds and then take our jobs.
In the meantime, RollOnFriday is doing its bit to see how AI can benefit the legal profession by getting it to write mini stories about lawyers, and create posters of what law firms would like if they were movies.