Should lawyers be afraid of artificial intelligence?

Behind the rational and justified criticisms directed at the creator of I-Avocat, namely the illegal exercise of the profession or the confidentiality of the data provided, lies a real fear. However, fear of artificial intelligence (AI) is not the prerogative of lawyers, who only reacted to a rather non-subtle attack on their profession. AI generates a sneaky anxiety at all levels of society, fueled by fantasies of transhumanism and humanoid robots amply illustrated in the filmography of recent decades.

“Evolution of AI”

This raises questions because, fundamentally, AI is not a quantum leap compared to “before” computing. AI is a fairly predictable technological development that results from the combination of different programs, the availability of considerable databases and increasingly powerful information processing infrastructures. What is new, however, is the almost unlimited extent of the field of investigation and applications opened up by the rapid advances of this technology. As with all technical progress, some of these advances are virtuous and others less so. On the virtuous side, Bill Gates has recently become excited about AI’s ability to generate radical advances in medicine and education and to reduce inequalities in the world.

More ambiguously, Marc Zuckenberg declares that he is capable of “ in the long term, to build general intelligence (Artificial General Intelligence, or AGI) and make it available and useful to everyone in our daily lives “. AGI refers to a generative AI that would be much faster and “smarter” than a human and would function autonomously, without human intervention. This is where the little red light turns on in the simple human’s brain, moderately intelligent and moderately “generative” that we are, because he rightly wonders how far this autonomy could go in malicious hands. Make no mistake, man’s ability to oversee AI applications and their abuses is a of the greatest challenges of the third millennium.

A “self-medicalization” of the law

But returning now to the I-Avocat application, or any other name under which it may subsequently appear, the danger to the profession seems to us to be very limited at the moment. To correctly use this legal self-medication platform, you still need to ask the right questions. However, every lawyer knows that a client does not necessarily ask the right questions regarding the situation in question, and the professional’s first added value is to resituate these questions, even before resolving them. Once the right questions are asked, they must be answered, with or without alternatives. At this point, we will readily admit that an AI is remarkably efficient, supporting the lawyer and saving him a lot of investigation time. Provided, of course, that the AI ​​in question does not invent jurisprudence for the needs of the case. And finally, we must interpret the research without having this interpretation imposed by AI, propose answers, advise, plead. This last stage requires, to varying degrees depending on the area of ​​law considered, an understanding of the context that goes far beyond pure intelligence. An AI is very intelligent but it has no heart and much less conscience, qualities that are essential to human beings in general and lawyers in particular.

The risk to the profession is therefore very limited, beyond the effect of the announcement. But the turmoil caused by the launch of the I-avocat application highlights a real difficulty, which is access to legal professionals by individuals or small companies under reasonable cost and deadline conditions. It is no surprise that the creator of I-avocat focused his first communication on these issues, and it is up to the profession to face this positively, making AI its ally and not its competitor.