SRA warns of AI risks – but also recognises benefits

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By Rhys Duncan on

Confidentiality and accountability among top concerns

A new report by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has highlighted the benefits, and risks, of artificial intelligence (AI) in the legal world.

The work, which is the latest in the regulator’s ‘Risk Outlook’ series, cites previous reports which suggest that the use of AI has significantly risen across a spectrum of small, medium, and large firms.

The growth in AI, the report goes on, offers a range of opportunities. These include increases in efficiency for administrative tasks, cost reduction as a result, and an increase in transparency, AI models offering speedy, cost effective, translations.

It’s not all good news, however, with the regulator offering a (longer) list of potential pitfalls. AI models have previously been known to invent cases and precedents, and, with their speed and efficiency comes the risk that any unchecked errors may have a greater impact than individual human mistakes.

This is in addition to concerns over confidentiality and privacy, accountability, and regulatory divergence. The report also notes the criminal potential of AI, with there being at least one case where a party argued that evidence had been falsified through the use of AI.

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In response to the report, Paul Philip, SRA chief executive, said:

“It is difficult to predict how quickly AI will change the legal sector, but increasingly we won’t be able to ignore its impacts. So far it has mainly been larger firms using AI. However, with such technology becoming increasingly accessible, all firms can take advantage of its potential. There are opportunities to work more efficiently and effectively. This could ultimately help the public access legal services in different and more affordable ways.”

“Yet there are risks,” he continued. “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”.

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