By: Amit Acco, Partner |

The integration of artificial intelligence (AI) into the legal profession is a topic of significant interest and debate worldwide. In Israel, the National Ethics Committee of the Israeli Bar Association has issued a detailed opinion on the use of AI by lawyers, known as AT/24/60. This opinion addresses the ethical implications, benefits, and practical considerations of employing AI in legal practice. This essay explores these aspects comprehensively, based on the committee’s guidelines, to provide a nuanced understanding of how AI can be ethically and effectively integrated into the work of lawyers in Israel.

Ethical Considerations

1. Preliminary Disclosure of Opinion

The National Ethics Committee’s opinion serves as an initial disclosure regarding the ethical considerations of using AI in legal practice. It highlights the unprecedented interest and increased accessibility of AI tools like ChatGPT, which necessitates a formal stance on their ethical use (AT/24/60 Section 1).

2. Duty of Loyalty and Diligence

A critical ethical concern is the duty of loyalty and diligence that lawyers owe to their clients. AI platforms generate outputs by synthesizing vast amounts of data, which may include incorrect or outdated information. Lawyers must critically evaluate and verify AI-generated content before using it in their practice to avoid breaching their duty of loyalty and diligence (AT/24/60 Section B(1)2). The committee explicitly states that reliance on unverified AI outputs could lead to violations of professional ethics, particularly under Section 54 of the Law of the Bar Association and Rule 2 of the Bar Association Rules (AT/24/60 Section B(1)7).

3. Confidentiality and Privacy

Maintaining client confidentiality is a cornerstone of legal ethics. AI platforms, which store and process the data inputted by users, pose a risk to this confidentiality. Lawyers must avoid entering personal or sensitive client information into AI systems to prevent unauthorized disclosures (AT/24/60 Section B(2)11). The committee underscores the importance of ensuring that AI systems do not inadvertently reveal client identities through cross-referenced data (AT/24/60 Section B(2)16). Lawyers must also refrain from inputting any information that could be linked back to their clients, even in seemingly harmless contexts (AT/24/60 Section B(2)14).

4. Informed Consent

Given the potential risks associated with using AI, lawyers must obtain explicit, informed consent from their clients before inputting personal information into AI systems. This consent should detail the types of documents involved, the security measures implemented, and the specific AI systems used (AT/24/60 Section B(4)29). Including such consent in the engagement documents between lawyer and client ensures transparency and allows clients to make informed decisions about their data privacy (AT/24/60 Section B(4)30).

Benefits of AI in Legal Practice

Despite the ethical challenges, AI offers several advantages that can significantly enhance legal practice:

1. Efficiency and Productivity

AI can automate time-consuming administrative tasks such as document review, legal research, and contract analysis. This automation allows lawyers to focus on more strategic and complex aspects of their work, thereby increasing overall productivity.

2. Enhanced Decision-Making

AI tools can provide valuable insights and recommendations based on extensive data analysis. While these tools cannot replace human judgment, they can assist lawyers in making more informed decisions by highlighting relevant precedents and identifying patterns that may not be immediately apparent (AT/24/60 Section A4).

3. Access to Legal Resources

AI platforms can democratize access to legal information, making it easier for lawyers to obtain relevant legal materials and precedents. This accessibility is particularly beneficial for small law firms and solo practitioners who may not have extensive legal libraries.

 Practical Considerations

To harness the benefits of AI while mitigating ethical risks, lawyers should adopt several best practices:

1. Comprehensive Understanding of AI Tools

Lawyers must thoroughly understand how AI platforms function, including their capabilities, limitations, and potential risks. This knowledge enables lawyers to use these tools effectively and responsibly (AT/24/60 Section A4). Understanding the underlying mechanics of AI systems helps in identifying potential biases and inaccuracies, thereby ensuring that the information used is reliable.

2. Use of Closed Systems

Where possible, lawyers should prefer using closed, dedicated AI systems designed for internal office use over open, public systems. These closed systems reduce the risk of data leakage and unauthorized access (AT/24/60 Section B(3)22). However, even within closed systems, lawyers must ensure that information is securely managed and access is restricted to authorized personnel (AT/24/60 Section B(3)24).

3. Regular Updates and Training

Given the rapid evolution of AI technology, lawyers must stay updated on the latest developments and continuously educate themselves about new ethical and legal implications. Regular training can help lawyers keep pace with technological advancements and maintain ethical compliance (AT/24/60 Section A4).

4. Documenting AI Use

When using AI platforms, it is essential to document their use in legal proceedings. Lawyers must inform the court and opposing parties if they relied on AI systems for legal research or document drafting. This transparency ensures that all parties are aware of the sources of information and can evaluate their reliability accordingly (AT/24/60 Section B(1)9).

5. Limiting AI Use to General Queries

To minimize the risk of confidentiality breaches, lawyers should limit their use of AI platforms to general and theoretical queries. Specific client information should not be entered into AI systems unless absolutely necessary, and even then, only with explicit client consent and adequate security measures in place (AT/24/60 Section B(2)19).

 Specific Ethical Risks and Recommendations

1. Risks of Bias and Discrimination

AI systems can inadvertently produce biased or discriminatory outputs due to the nature of the data they are trained on. Lawyers must be vigilant in identifying and correcting such biases to ensure that AI-generated information does not perpetuate injustice or discrimination (AT/24/60 Section B(1)3).

2. Ensuring Data Security

Lawyers must take proactive measures to secure client data when using AI platforms. This includes ensuring that external AI service providers are contractually obligated to maintain data confidentiality and prevent unauthorized sharing of information (AT/24/60 Section B(3)25). Additionally, lawyers should implement robust data security practices within their firms to protect client information from potential breaches (AT/24/60 Section B(3)26).

3. Ethical Use in Litigation

In litigation, it is crucial for lawyers to provide full disclosure about the sources of information they use. Relying on AI-generated outputs without proper verification can mislead the court and violate ethical standards. Lawyers must disclose their use of AI systems and ensure that all information presented is accurate and reliable (AT/24/60 Section B(1)8).

KTA Law Firm’s Use of AI

KTA Law Firm provides a practical example of how AI can be used ethically and effectively within a legal practice. The firm employs a non-public AI engine that does not share any client information externally. This closed system is utilized to generate general document formats and operates an AI chatbot that responds to clients’ generic legal immigration queries. Importantly, all information inputted into the bot is sourced from KTA’s publicly accessible website, which is regularly updated with the latest laws, regulations, and trends. This approach ensures that the use of AI does not compromise client confidentiality or the integrity of the information provided (AT/24/60 Sections B(3)21-26).

Final Notes

The integration of AI in the legal profession presents both opportunities and challenges. AI can enhance efficiency, decision-making, and access to legal resources, but it also raises significant ethical concerns regarding loyalty, confidentiality, and informed consent. The National Ethics Committee’s opinion AT/24/60 provides crucial guidelines to navigate these challenges, emphasizing the need for critical evaluation, secure data handling, and transparency with clients. By adhering to these guidelines and continuously updating their knowledge, Israeli lawyers can leverage AI technology to improve their practice while upholding the highest ethical standards.

Through careful implementation and adherence to ethical guidelines, AI can be a valuable tool for lawyers in Israel, enhancing their capabilities while safeguarding the principles of the legal profession.