Bar’s artificial intelligence panel ‘plowing new ground’
A University of Florida Law professor urged the Bar’s new special committee on artificial intelligence not to focus only on the potential pitfalls.
At the first meeting of the Special Committee on AI Tools & Resources, Prof. William Hamilton said the panel needs to act quickly to establish guardrails.
“There’s going to be tremendous temptation as AI develops for attorneys to engage in shortcuts, very high-risk shortcuts,” Hamilton warned. “We’ve really got to jump on this with some alacrity and stay ahead of the curve.”
At the same time, Hamilton said, the committee should be careful not to set too negative of a “tone.”
“This can be a great tool, this can accomplish great things in terms of legitimizing the dispute resolution process,” he said.
Co-Chair Gordon Glover, a veteran Board of Governors member, assured Hamilton that President Scott Westheimer couldn’t agree more.
Westheimer certainly feels a sense of urgency, assured Co-Chair Duffy Myrtetus, an out-of-state board member from Virginia.
“We’re going to be plowing new ground here and working pretty hard,” Myrtetus warned. “Scott Westheimer’s got some pretty strong expectations on what this committee ought to be doing on behalf of the Bar and the court.”
The committee will meet every other week, with subcommittees meeting in the interim.
In addition to board members and academics, the panel includes lawyers from across the state and from diverse practice areas, a legal technology consultant, the chair of the Florida Public Service Commission, and a circuit judge who serves on the Florida Courts Technology Commission, to name a few.
Westheimer wants the panel to focus initially on two general areas — lawyer regulation and court-related proceedings — before refining the mission, making assignments, and establishing deadlines, Glover said.
“I think the ethical concerns for lawyers are probably first and foremost for Scott and the Bar right now, so I think that that’s something that we need to tackle, and any recommendation to the court system.”
The committee will be collaborating with Lawyer Regulation Division Director Elizabeth Tarbert and Ethics Counsel Jonathan Grabb to review Bar rules, and the potential need for a formal ethics opinion, Glover said.
Court-related proceedings will encompass a broad area, Myrtetus said.
“This is going to include in a very general way, the use of AI in pleadings and other proceedings in court, questions about the integrity of evidence,” Myrtetus said. “What are the other way courts and clerks are going to try to regulate, validate, and assess the effects of AI, at least as it relates to pleadings and provenance of documents, audio recordings, video recordings.”
Eventually, the discussion could expand to include access to justice and AI’s potential to help pro se litigants navigate the courts, Myrtetus said.
Westheimer wants the panel to also develop resources that will help Florida lawyers keep current with the technology, Myrtetus said.
“We want to assess what sort of informational and educational resources are out there that . . . are going to help inform our members about some of these topics, some of the risks, some of the benefits, and how they are affecting the profession in general,” Myrtetus said.
The committee will avoid, at least initially, reviewing specific AI platforms and products, Glover said.
“The handful of experts that Duffy and I have had conversations with to date said it’s going to be changing and evolving so much that they strongly suggested that we wait six months,” he said.
AI is so new, and evolving so quickly, that it’s difficult to establish a single focus, Myrtetus said.
“Quite frankly, it’s been a little overwhelming at times as we’ve tried to take and prioritize topics, and tried to sequence our approach, on how we’re going to tackle what seem to be an ever-growing number, and ever evolving range of topics,” Myrtetus said.
Hamilton, a senior legal skills professor, directs UF’s E-Discovery Project.
Too many lawyers greeted the onset of e-discovery with disdain, thinking that it would be too complicated or too expensive, Hamilton said.
“They missed the point altogether, that as we have more and more evidence, we get to the truth easier,” he said.
AI couldn’t be more different, Hamilton said
“The product that is created by ChatGTP and other AI tools is so compellingly smooth, and interesting, that it seems flawless,” he said.