Navigating the AI Hype: Why Your Lawyer’s Human Touch Still Matters

10 August, 2023 | Nathan Tetzlaff

Artificial intelligence (AI) is all the rage at the moment, with commentators and enthusiasts raving about this new ‘disruptive’ technology, and the impact it may have on many industries.

The legal industry is no different. AI provides lawyers with tools to streamline certain tasks and make their work more efficient. However, for the time being we’re not worried about the risk of being replaced with machines.

Human judgement

Human judgement that is an essential part of legal work. The law is complex, and each case is unique. AI is not at the stage where it can analyse facts, figure out and apply the correct law, and make recommendations based on the particular circumstances involved. Law is a human construct that regulates interactions between people. Assessing how it impacts people in theory and in practice involves an intrinsic understanding of people and society.

It is also critical to know when a particular legal course of action may be unworkable in a practical sense and would cause non-legal consequences. This could include anything from reputational loss to family disharmony.

Empathy and understanding

Legal matters can be emotionally charged and high stress. Lawyers aren’t counsellors, but having a person involved is very reassuring for many clients. AI lacks the ability to understand the emotions involved in a legal matter. A good lawyer can provide support and guidance to clients in addition to legal advice.

AI cannot negotiate on your behalf

Negotiation is a critical part of many legal matters, and AI cannot negotiate on behalf of a client. Negotiation requires human interaction and the ability to read and respond to cues, in person, in writing or verbally. Taking purely mechanical legal advice seems like a great way of complicating and stalling discussions. Negotiations involve compromise, an element of give-and-take, and require subtle weighing options and ‘reading’ the other side.

Court appearances

Court appearances are needed in many legal matters, which an AI is simply unable to do.

AI is often just wrong

We have experimented with AI to review how we can use it to provide better client service. Sometimes it produces a result that is a useful first draft or discussion document, or as part of other research. Other times it produces deceptively convincing nonsense.

The New Zealand Law Society has issued a warning to members about use of AI. The NZLS library service assists lawyers with research. It has reported receiving requests from lawyers for copies of cases that an AI has advised may be relevant to their issues but following investigation has found that the cases did not exist. These were “fake, made up by a well-intentioned AI Tool.” NZLS has warned that AI “will fabricate facts and sources where it does not have access to sufficient data.”

What’s next?

At some point (it has probably already happened) someone is going to lose a fortune as a result of overreliance on bad advice from AI. That person won’t have any recourse as their use of AI to provide legal advice was at their own risk.

Anyone who asks an AI to invent a completely original joke tends to receive a tired old pun in reply. Either AIs aren’t great at following specific directions, or they don’t understand humour. Either option doesn’t suggest that AI is ready to dive into the complex and very human field of providing legal advice.

We are watching the development of AI with great interest, in particular the idea of high-level Artificial General Intelligence. In commercial law, property or disputes, what is currently available is interesting and has some uses but is no substitute for legal advice from a lawyer.

Ready to safeguard your legal matters with personalized expertise? Let’s discuss how our human lawyers can provide the essential judgement, empathy, and negotiation skills that AI simply can’t match. Schedule a consultation today, and let’s tailor a legal strategy based on real legal insights and experience.

Contact Nathan Tetzlaff

Phone: 09 837 6844


Ready to safeguard your legal matters with personalized expertise? Contact Nathan today.

email Nathan
+64 9 8376890

About the author

With a reputation for tenacity, expertise, and unwavering commitment to his clients, Nathan Tetzlaff is a formidable force in civil litigation. As a distinguished senior litigation lawyer at Smith and Partners, he provides valued insight to even the most complex
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