May 2024

An Incomplete Guide to Ethically Integrating AI Into Your Legal Practice

Kevin Frazier, Assistant Professor, Benjamin L. Crump College of Law, St. Thomas University

There is no AI exception in the Model Rules of Professional Conduct and corresponding state rules. Lawyers must proactively develop an understanding of the pros and cons of AI tools. This “practice guide” provides some early pointers for how to do just that—specifically, how to use AI tools while adhering to Model Rule 3.1.​

Model Rule 3.1, in short, mandates that lawyers only bring claims with substantial and legitimate basis in law and fact. This Rule becomes particularly relevant when using AI tools like ChatGPT in your legal research and drafting. On seemingly a daily basis, we hear of a lawyer misusing an AI tool and advancing a claim that is as real as Jack’s beanstalk.

The practice guide emphasizes the need for lawyers to independently verify the outputs from AI tools before relying on them in legal arguments. Such diligence ensures compliance with both MRPC 3.1 and the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11, which also discourages frivolous filings. Perhaps more importantly, it also saves the profession from damaging headlines that imply we’re unwilling to do our homework when it comes to learning the ins and outs of AI.

With those goals in mind, the guide offers a few practical steps to safely incorporate AI tools into legal workflows:

  1. Understand the AI Tool’s Function and Limitations: Knowing what the AI can and cannot do is crucial to avoiding reliance on inaccurate legal content.
  2. Independently Verify AI Outputs: Always cross-check AI-generated citations and arguments with trustworthy legal databases or resources.
  3. Document AI-Assisted Processes: Keeping a detailed record of how AI tools were used and verified can be crucial in demonstrating diligence and compliance with ethical standards.

The legal community, specifically bar associations, is actively exploring how to refine ethical rules to better accommodate AI tools. This evolving process necessitates that law students and practitioners stay informed about both technological advancements and corresponding legal ethics reforms.

For law students stepping into this rapidly evolving landscape, understanding how to balance innovation with ethical practice is key. The integration of AI in legal processes is not just about leveraging new tools but doing so in a way that upholds the integrity of the legal profession.