California Lawyers Association

Exploring AI and the Law: Insights from the Global Legal Community

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April 2024

In the global legal arena, the symbolic kickoff of the legal year serves as a platform for legal professionals to gather, reflect, and discuss pivotal issues shaping the future of the legal profession. 

Margaret Francisco, Chair of the International Law and Immigration Section (ILS) of the California Lawyers Association (CLA), recently returned from the Opening of the Legal Year events in Brussels, Milan, and Hong Kong. There, dozens of legal luminaries from diverse jurisdictions explored the intersection of artificial intelligence (AI) and the law, shedding light on how the new technology is transforming the practice of law.

Participants delved into various aspects of AI’s influence on legal proceedings, highlighting the challenges, best practices, and evolving regulatory landscapes.

Exploring AI and the Law: Insights from the Global Legal Community

Francisco said she was struck by the global consensus on the inevitability of AI’s integration into the legal profession. From discussions held in Hong Kong, where representatives from over 20 jurisdictions convened for a roundtable discussion, to deliberations in Milan, where participants engaged in thought-provoking discussions on AI’s implications for legal practice, it became evident that AI is here to stay.

“Everybody in the legal profession is trying to maneuver safely and compliantly through an area that is still uncharted,” she said. 

At a small group session at DLA Piper’s Milan office, a panel of tax specialists presented a seminar on how Italy’s Ministry of Economy and Finance has authorized the Internal Revenue Service to use AI. The service is currently using the VeRa algorithm, which cross-references tax returns, earnings, property records, bank accounts, and electronic transactions to identify taxpayers at risk of non-payment, she said. 

Exploring AI and the Law: Insights from the Global Legal Community

Italy’s innovative approach, while promising, underscores the importance of maintaining a human element in the process. Francisco shared her perspective as a U.S. lawyer and a cautionary tale from New York, where reliance solely on AI led to erroneous case citations and subsequent sanctions. The need for human oversight remains paramount, she said.

In addition, Initiatives such as CLA’s Task Force on Artificial Intelligence and the State Bar of California’s guidelines on the ethical use of AI underscore the importance of ethical considerations in leveraging AI tools. These guidelines, which mandate informed consent from clients and rigorous supervision of AI-generated work, exemplify the proactive approach legal bodies must take to ensure ethical AI adoption.

Beyond practice-specific insights, she said the events fostered global collaboration and camaraderie among legal professionals. 

Despite geographical and cultural differences, attendees from diverse backgrounds found common ground in their shared pursuit of justice and excellence in the legal profession. The formation of friendship agreements between CLA and bar associations from other jurisdictions underscores the importance of fostering cross-border relationships and knowledge exchange. 

“I want to expand our scope and our international presence by forming friendship agreements with lawyers on every continent,” Francisco said. “We must reach out to form relationships with other countries and build camaraderie, understanding, and connections that supersede what’s happening with world events.”

Since returning from the trip, Francisco has been discussing potential friendship agreements with the Commonwealth Lawyers Association and the European Association of Lawyers. The Warsaw Bar Association has already committed and has invited Francisco to attend its Leadership Conference in Warsaw in May to sign the agreement.

Initiatives such as the collaboration between the CLA and international bar associations signal a broader trend toward global cooperation in addressing the challenges and opportunities presented by AI in the legal sphere. As the legal community continues to navigate the complexities of an AI-driven world, these collaborative efforts serve as a beacon of hope, uniting legal professionals in their shared mission to uphold justice and safeguard the integrity of the legal profession, she said.

“I’m committed to the ILS’ mission of conducting educational events, webinars, and seminars with foreign colleagues across the world, ” she said. “These programs will help us all acquire greater knowledge of the legal concepts, issues, and professional standards that govern our respective jurisdictions. I am especially excited that this year, ILS will expand its global footprint through the launching of a new international humanitarian initiative, The Peace Project. It will unite lawyers from around the globe in a shared commitment to advancing peace, dignity, and justice through the hosting of programs designed to support human rights, economic empowerment, and the development of human potential to transform challenged environments and communities.”

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