AI could change how we obtain legal advice, but those without access to the technology could be left out in the cold

AI could change how we obtain legal advice, but those without access to the technology could be left out in the cold

science, technology By Jan 04, 2024 No Comments

AI Could Revolutionize Legal Advice, but Access Inequality Looms

Artificial intelligence (AI) tools are transforming the legal profession, promising expanded access to justice and efficient legal services. However, the widespread adoption of AI in the legal industry is amplifying existing inequalities in access to legal advice.

AI in the Legal Profession

The legal profession has embraced AI for automating tasks and enhancing prediction capabilities. Large law firms have been at the forefront of utilizing AI tools, empowering their solicitors in day-to-day operations. By 2022, a substantial majority of the largest solicitor’s law firms had incorporated AI into their practices.

The trend has since permeated smaller and medium-sized firms, marking a significant shift towards mainstream utilization of AI in the legal field. The potential benefits of AI in legal practice are immense, promising increased efficiency and reduced operational costs.

Risks and Challenges

However, the rapid expansion of AI in the legal domain has amplified the urgency to assess potential risks. The 2023 Risk Outlook Report by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) highlights the potential for AI to automate time-consuming tasks and increase operational speed and capacity, particularly benefiting smaller firms.

Nonetheless, the report also underscores the necessity for rigorous monitoring of AI tools to prevent errors or “hallucinations” that could mislead legal practitioners and clients, potentially leading to miscarriages of justice. The existence of biases within AI algorithms adds further complexity to the risks associated with AI in the legal profession.

Regulatory Responses

In December 2023, English judges were issued with judicial guidance regarding the use of AI in legal processes, signaling a growing acknowledgment of the potential risks. However, the regulatory approach in the UK remains relatively reserved, relying on industry-initiated controls rather than imposing strict regulatory frameworks.

In contrast, the EU’s AI Act, under development for several years, presents a considerably stricter regulatory framework. While acknowledging the need for technological innovation, it emphasizes the importance of manageable limitations to prevent adverse impacts.

Impact on Access to Justice

Despite the potential benefits of AI in streamlining legal processes, there is a pressing concern regarding its impact on access to justice. The prevailing narrative touts AI as an equalizing force, empowering individuals with expert tools to navigate legal challenges.

However, this narrative neglects the reality that many members of the public lack regular or direct access to the internet or the financial resources to harness AI-powered legal tools. Furthermore, individuals with disabilities or elderly citizens facing digital exclusion are unable to take advantage of these technological advancements.

The challenges extend beyond access limitations, as the complexity of legal issues often requires personalized and nuanced responses, unlike the standard interactions facilitated by chatbots. Furthermore, disparities in financial eligibility for legal aid have already created a gap in access to legal representation.

Addressing Inequality and Challenges

As AI continues to evolve and minimize human interaction, there is a genuine risk of exacerbating discrepancies in accessing legal advice. The tremendous potential of AI in enhancing legal services is undermined by the existing structural and societal inequalities, creating a stark contrast to the initial intentions behind embracing AI in the legal profession.

The Way Forward

Bridging the gap in access to legal advice facilitated by AI requires a multi-faceted approach. Regulatory bodies, legal practitioners, and technology developers must collaborate to ensure the inclusive and ethical deployment of AI tools in the legal domain. Efforts to address bias in AI algorithms and create comprehensive frameworks for monitoring and auditing are crucial.

Furthermore, public and private entities should prioritize initiatives focused on improving digital access for marginalized communities, ensuring that the benefits of AI in legal services reach a broader audience. Embracing a holistic approach that integrates the human element alongside technological advancements is pivotal in mitigating the widening access inequality in obtaining legal advice.


The integration of AI in the legal profession holds tremendous potential for efficiency and enhanced legal services. However, the widening gap in access to AI-powered legal advice poses a significant challenge, undermining the original intention of leveraging AI to expand access to justice.

Addressing the inequalities amplified by AI in the legal domain demands proactive measures to ensure ethical, inclusive, and transparent deployment of AI tools. By balancing technological advancements with efforts to bridge access disparities, the legal profession can harness the full potential of AI while upholding the principles of justice and equality.

Source: theconversation

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