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AI, esquire?

September 18, 2023

Today's column was written by a human being. Really. Would I lie to you?

Milt Policzer

By Milt Policzer

Courthouse News columnist; racehorse owner and breeder; one of those guys who always got picked last.

Should artificial intelligences be required to pass the bar exam?

We require humans who give legal advice to pass bar exams. If an AI gives legal advice, shouldn’t it have to prove its abilities?

I thought of this the other day after reading an announcement from the State Bar of California that it had shut down a law firm that didn’t have any lawyers — i.e. humans who had passed the bar. I’m not sure why this made me think of AIs but I’d also recently seen a study with an oddly misleading synopsis comparing the performance of humans with and without the help of AIs.

The study, by a couple of professors at the University of Minnesota Law School, according to the synopsis, “suggests that AI may have an equalizing effect on the legal profession, mitigating inequalities between elite and nonelite lawyers.”

Not much point going to Harvard if you can enroll in a law school above a drugstore and then buy a computer to get the same skill level.

Imagine for a moment what that will do to billable hour rates.

You can breathe now — that isn’t exactly what the study says. What the professors did is let a bunch of law students use AI to help them with exams. What they found wasn’t exactly shocking: AI helped with multiple choice questions but didn’t help much with essays.

The fun part was that it improved multiple choice results for lousy students but brought down the grades for good students. Hence the equalizing effect.

That, of course, doesn’t translate into reality. No one is going to order good lawyers to dumb down their work by using AI (unless it’s for climate change denial, tobacco company defense or election challenges).

It does mean, though, that lawyers, mediocre or otherwise, may be using AI in their work and AI, as the study also notes, can be unreliable if you’re not careful how you phrase your questions.

We may soon need law school classes on how to interact with computers so they don’t go insane. You have to be able to say just the right things.

Replacement theory. There’s been a lot public handwringing about AI replacing people in all sorts of jobs – including writing. For all you know, this column could be written by an AI. It’s not, but isn’t that what an evil AI would say?

What we haven’t heard about is AI replacing people in Congress and the White House.

Yeah, I know, no one wants to cede control to robots. But consider the present-day alternatives.

Consider all the people running for president.

Now have a drink to calm yourself down.

If you have a choice between two doddering guys who may not make it through the election campaign and a well-designed computer program, where does your vote go?

Now imagine a world where all the lunatics in Congress are replaced by the gentle hum of server fans.

Really. I’m not an AI writing this. You must believe me.

And vote for me.

Categories / Op-Ed, Technology

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