Think AI Can Do Your Legal Research For You? Think Again.

Barely a day goes by where we don’t hear about how artificial intelligence can help us manage our lives.  There is no doubt that the powerful AI technologies being introduced can also change the landscape for legal services.  AI services are being developed that can draft and review commercial contracts, assist with employment contracts and more.

While the technology is impressive, there are limits to its use, and complete a reliance on technology is not a prudent substitute for the human touch to manage the nuances of professional legal services.

In New York, the limits to AI as a tool for legal research were recently laid bare.

In the United States District Court, Southern District of New York, a lawyer from the firm Levidow, Levidow & Oberman brought a claim against an airline seeking damages for a client who was injured as a passenger on Avianca Airlines.   Faced with an application to dismiss the claim by the airline, the plaintiff’s lawyer provided the Court with a legal brief that contained multiple court cases that supported the plaintiff’s position that the action should not be dismissed.

Upon reviewing the plaintiff’s brief, the defendant realized that the cases in the brief either didn’t exist, or didn’t state the law in the way the plaintiff indicated.

This was brought to the attention of Judge P. Kevin Castel, who ordered on April 11, 2023 that the Plaintiff provide copies of the cases that were at issue.

When the plaintiff’s lawyer complied with the order and provided the cases to the Court, upon review, Judge Castel came to the conclusion that the “submitted cases appear to be bogus judicial decisions with bogus quotes and bogus internal citations.”  The judge demanded that this conduct be justified by the lawyer.

It turns out the lawyer had consulted with the AI service Chat GPT to assist with his legal research.  The lawyer indicated that the legal cases and the opinions that were previously presented to the Court “were provided by Chat GPT which also provided its legal source and assured the reliability of its content.”  When the lawyer asked the AI service if the cases were real, the service replied that the cases were in fact real and could be located on multiple legal research databases.

It turns out that the AI service had made up all of the research and the cases that were described in the brief.  While it seems the lawyer did not intend to mislead the court, the reliance on the research provided by Chat GPT has taken the focus away from the merits of the case and instead now is focusing on the conduct of the plaintiff’s lawyers.

Proper legal research is imperative when it comes to advancing a client’s claim.  While AI has shown that it can be helpful for some tasks, it is incredibly risky to rely upon these services without the skills and knowledge required to review the information for accuracy.

If you require a legal opinion for any legal matter, please do not hesitate to contact us.   We have access to a wide variety of technologies that make our research efficient while also possessing the skills to ensure that the legal opinions we provide are trustworthy.

If you would like to review the court materials in the Mata v. Avianca, Inc. matter, they can be found here:

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