New York state bar association outlines guidelines for AI use in legal practice

The New York State Bar Association’s Task Force on Artificial Intelligence released recommendations on the legal, social, and ethical effects of artificial intelligence (AI) and generative AI on the legal profession.

 Electronics, Computer, Person, Security, Tablet Computer, Blackboard

The New York State Bar Association (NYSBA) has issued comprehensive guidelines for the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in legal practice, urging lawyers to use AI tools with caution and care. The guidelines were developed in response to the growing integration of AI technologies in law firms, which, while not always visible, significantly enhance the work of paralegals and attorneys by automating repetitive tasks like document management, legal research, and billing. They aim to ensure that lawyers can leverage AI tools to improve client service and practice efficiency without compromising ethical standards or client confidentiality.

The NYSBA’s report highlights several key areas:

Disclosure and Ethical Standards: Lawyers are encouraged to disclose the use of AI in client cases, maintaining transparency and adhering to ethical standards, including the protection of attorney-client privilege and data security. The task force recommended that attorneys inform clients that AI may be used in their work, and the report includes a sample statement to include in a client engagement letter.

Education Over Legislation: The guidelines suggest prioritising education for judges, lawyers, law students, and regulators to understand AI technology and apply existing laws to regulate it effectively.

Risk Identification: Legislatures are urged to identify risks associated with AI technology that are not addressed by existing laws and pass new rules to regulate AI as required.

Privacy and Confidentiality Risks: Lawyers are warned of the privacy risks posed by AI tools, especially regarding client confidentiality. The guidelines recommend ensuring that AI tools are secure and used judiciously, with a focus on protecting client information even when using AI for case management and data analysis.

Overreliance on AI: The report cautions against exclusively relying on information produced by AI and generative AI tools. Lawyers are advised to take security measures to preserve personal client information and not depend solely on AI-generated content.

Continuous Evolution: Recognising the rapid advancement of AI technology, the NYSBA acknowledges that the guidelines will need to continuously evolve. Lawyers are encouraged to be cautious, curious, and vigilant as they navigate the integration of AI into their practices.

Why does it matter?

The NYSBA is taking a significant step to address AI’s impact on the legal profession. The initiative puts New York alongside a few other states, like Florida and California, that have already released recommendations on AI use. By establishing a framework for responsible AI use, the NYSBA aims to ensure that lawyers can harness the benefits of AI technology while mitigating its risks and maintaining the profession’s ethical standards.