Research investigates the ethical implications of AI integration in legal practice

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Artificial intelligence has become a central part of modern society, from use in GPS and social media platforms, to algorithms analysing high-frequency data in the finance sector, to medical healthcare where AI is used to analyse DNA models.

Research from the University of Liverpool’s Law School explores the integration of artificial intelligence in legal practice, discussing the ethical and practical issues that arise and how it affects traditional legal procedures.

The shift from labour-intensive legal practice to technology-enhanced methods has the potential to improve access to legal services and streamline legal procedures. AI-powered tools can quickly sift through vast amounts of legal documents and case law to identify relevant information, saving significant time and resources.

However, the use of AI in the legal sector also raises ethical challenges, which Postgraduate Researcher, Ammar Zafar, explores in research published by Springer Link.

The research highlighted issues around accountability in AI-assisted legal decisions. When AI systems contribute to or directly influence legal outcomes, assigning responsibility for those decisions – especially in cases of errors or biases – challenges the traditional accountability structures within legal practices.

There are also ethical implications within sensitive legal areas, such as: child custody disputes, criminal justice, and divorce settlements. The potential for bias within AI systems – from skewed data sets or biased algorithmic design – can unintentionally result in discriminatory practices or unfair outcomes.

Speaking of the implementation of AI in legal practice, Ammar Zafar, Liverpool Law School, shared:

"Renowned historian Melvin Kranzberg once stated, 'Technology is neither good nor bad, nor is it neutral.' This aptly reflects the dual-use nature of technology as a tool that can be wielded in various ways. In the context of incorporating artificial intelligence (AI) into legal systems, the need for stringent ethical oversight is crucial. This research highlights the critical importance of instilling ethical integrity at the heart of AI deployments, ensuring they function not only as instruments of technological progress but also as pillars of justice and equity.It emphasises the role of ethical considerations, including transparency and bias reduction, in shaping how AI can improve the accessibility and fairness of legal procedures.

The implications of such an approach are significant, aiming to enhance the accuracy of legal outcomes and preserve the legal profession's core values. It is essential, therefore, to continue our diligent efforts to integrate AI into legal frameworks responsibly, protecting the foundational values of our judicial systems while leveraging the benefits of technological advancements."

This study emphasises the critical importance of maintaining ethical awareness in the development and implementation of AI systems in these areas, advocating for a commitment to ethical integrity.

Access the paper: Balancing the scale: navigating ethical and practical challenges of artificial intelligence (AI) integration in legal practices.