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The Geneva Declaration On The Responsible Use Of AI In The Legal Profession

What an exciting day in Geneva! Monday 26th of June I took part in the Conference “UN SDGs, AI, and the Future of Legal Professions: Fostering Equality and Access to Law” in the prestigious Salle V of the Palais des Nations (UN Headquarters in Geneva), organized by the CIRID (Centre indépendant de recherches et d'initiatives pour le dialogue), a Swiss NGO with consultative status at the Economic and Social Council of the United in partnership with SCLA (Swiss Chinese Law Association).

Lawyers, judges, academics and entrepreneurs from more than three dozen countries gathered in Geneva for this event. Mezzle was one of the proud sponsors of the Conference.

In this all-day long Conference, we have dealt with the challenges and opportunities that the use of AI brings into the legal profession and how AI should be used to promote wider and fairer access to justice instead to deepen the gap among people or countries.

It is impossible to summarize the flow of ideas, suggestions and concerns which – seamlessly – circulated among speakers, panellists and attendees.

I shall try to give some rhapsodic brushstrokes.

In the first panel “Leading the way to global equality in access to the law with Al” (moderated by Dominik Gałkowski, Poland), Ms Alessandra Nascimento S. F. Mourào (Brazil) outlined the important role that AI can play in enforcing judgments and arbitral awards helping in tracing assets of the losing party or in ordering automatic bank transfers to the winning party; Dr Xiangxia Li (China) addressed how the AI is already used (even though at an embryonal stage) to giving legal advice and preventing disputes.

In the second panel “AI as a double-edged sword: risks to the SDGs posed by the use of Al” (moderated by Peter Ruggle from Switzerland) there was a lively debate among Matt Mortazavi (Canada), Ms Yucel Yonca Fatma (Turkey) and the floor, but each panellist brought his (or her) experience, expectations and worries on that topic.

The third panel “Using Al to catalyse legal innovation: reshaping practices, driving efficiency and Shaping a new future for legal services” was masterly moderated by Phillip Hackett KC (England) who labelled himself “the dinosaur in the room” and stressed that dealing with a case it is not only a matter of logic but requires also compassion. And AI lacks in this regard. Dr Ewelina Mitrega (Switzerland) addressed the issue of data protection and privacy related to AI.

Finally, we went to the fourth panel “The Legal Profession & AI Declaration Draft Committee”. Thanks to Zhang Tianze (“SCLA heart and soul”) and Joel Hakizimana (CIRID Secretary General) I was the Chair of the Drafting Committee regarding the responsible use of AI by the lawyers.

The other committee members were Luo Lifan (China), Peter Ruggle (Switerzland), Dominik Gałkowski (Poland), Courtney Chicvak (USA), Yan Penghe (China), and Jiang Jiazhi (China).

In the Declaration (approved at the end of the Conference and signed) we have tried to balance the need to use new technologies with respect for human rights and – in particular – with the wider and fairer access to justice.

In the preamble, we expressed our belief that “AI can be a useful and powerful tool, but it cannot replace our knowledge, ability, and empathy. The use of AI cannot lead us to lose our critical thinking and analytical skills”.

In point 1, we affirm that “AI can be used in providing legal services, but the ultimate decision on a case must be taken by a human being (lawyer or client, as the case may be). We believe that every case has a margin of unpredictability at the outset and AI cannot determine the outcome of a case with absolute certainty. AI should not replace human judgment, empathy, and ethics which are part of the legal profession”.

We carved out a duty to disclose the use of AI towards our clients and – in litigation or any ADR proceedings – to any other party involved (points nr 7, 9, and 10); and we have the duty to review and supervise the output of AI (points nr 6, and 8).

All signatories “strongly encourage cooperation among legal practitioners and institutions, sharing best practices and lessons learned regarding AI in the legal field, to promote the development and standardization of the industry and better access to justice” (point nr 18). The full-text of the Declaration can be found on the SCLA website.

Of course, this is self-regulation; it is not mandatory law.

It is only the first step in a long way, we hope that local Bar Councils and Countries can develop a harmonized set of rules to regulate the use of AI in the legal profession.

We should use this new tool to give our clients better services but in a responsible and fair manner.

AI can open new and boundless scenarios, but – borrowing Immanuel Kant’s words – we have two limits: the starry sky above us and the moral rules inside us.

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