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Law x Generative AI: The Future That's Already Here

A review of the California State Bar's guidance on generative AI approved in November 2023.

Law x Generative AI: The Future That's Already Here
Ofer Bleiweiss
Ofer Bleiweiss

In the rapidly evolving landscape of legal technology, generative artificial intelligence has emerged as a pivotal tool reshaping how legal professionals approach their practice. On November 16, 2023, the State Bar of California's Standing Committee on Professional Responsibility and Conduct issued vital guidance for attorneys navigating the complexities of generative AI. This guidance underscores the importance of adhering to ethical standards while harnessing the power of this technology. Here, we distill the key concepts from this guidance to help lawyers and legal teams understand their responsibilities and opportunities in this new frontier.

Embracing Technology with Ethical Integrity

Generative AI, with its capacity to analyze vast volumes of data and emulate human-like responses, offers immense potential for the legal profession. From drafting documents to legal research, AI can enhance efficiency and provide insights previously unattainable through traditional methods. However, such powerful technology comes with its unique challenges and ethical considerations.

The Duty of Confidentiality and Security

The foremost concern addressed by the guidance is the duty of confidentiality. In the legal profession, safeguarding client information is paramount. When engaging with generative AI technologies, attorneys must ensure that these tools do not compromise client confidentiality. This includes verifying that AI systems offer adequate security protections, do not share information with unauthorized parties, and comply with data retention protocols. Without adequate security, the guidelines advise that attorneys should anonymize client data before input into the AI tools.

Competence and Diligence in AI Usage

The guidance emphasizes the importance of attorney competence and diligence when using generative AI. It cautions against overreliance on these technologies, which may project confidence in their outputs. Attorneys must critically assess AI-generated information for accuracy, bias, and relevance to their client's case. This includes understanding the workings and limitations of the AI tool in use. An attorney's judgment must guide the use of AI, not the other way around.

A lawyer’s professional judgment cannot be delegated to generative AI and remains the lawyer’s responsibility at all times. A lawyer should take steps to avoid over-reliance on generative AI to such a degree that it hinders critical attorney analysis fostered by traditional research and writing.

Legal Compliance and Supervision

Navigating the complex web of laws and regulations applicable to generative AI use is another critical area highlighted in the guidelines. Attorneys must ensure compliance with relevant privacy, intellectual property, and cybersecurity laws. Moreover, there is a duty for supervisory attorneys to establish policies and provide training that ensures responsible AI use within their firms. Subordinate attorneys are also cautioned against using AI in ways that contravene their professional responsibilities.

Transparent Communication and Billing Practices

Transparency with clients about the use of generative AI is another cornerstone of the guidance. Attorneys are encouraged to discuss the benefits and risks associated with AI, how it will be used in their case, and any limitations or guidelines set by the client. When it comes to billing, the guidance asserts that attorneys may charge for the time spent on AI-assisted work but must not bill for the time saved by using AI. Clear explanations of AI-associated costs should be part of fee agreements.

Upholding Justice and Equity

The guidance also touches on the ethical implications of AI biases. Attorneys are urged to remain vigilant for potential biases within AI tools that may impact case strategy, client screening, or hiring practices. Continuous education on AI and proactive policy development within firms can help mitigate these risks.

Ethical Considerations for Legal Tech Buyers

Though not captured by the guidelines, for those investing in legal technologies that leverage generative AI, it is crucial to extend due diligence beyond the capabilities and benefits of the technology itself. Buyers should consider whether the companies behind these technologies are committed to building and evolving their products in line with applicable ethical guidelines. This involves assessing the company's approach to data privacy, security protocols and transparency about AI limitations, among other things. Choosing technology partners who prioritize these ethical considerations will not only align with the professional responsibilities of legal practitioners but also contribute to fostering a legal tech ecosystem that upholds justice, equity, and the highest standards of legal professionalism.


The integration of generative AI into legal practice is an exciting development that promises to enhance the efficiency and scope of legal services. However, as the guidance from the State Bar of California highlights, it also necessitates a thoughtful approach to uphold the ethical standards of the profession. By adhering to these guiding principles, attorneys can harness the benefits of AI while ensuring the integrity and quality of their legal services remain uncompromised. Plus, engaging with vendors who demonstrate a clear understanding and compliance with these ethical frameworks will ensure that the legal profession moves forward with technological advances without compromising on the core values and duties that define it.


[This is an AI-human collaboration. Let us know if you found it helpful. As this is just a high-level overview, we encourage you to review the complete guidance, which can be found here:

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