UNC School of Law hosted an innovative virtual CLE event on November 10, 2023. This year’s highly anticipated Dan K. Moore program convened via Zoom to address one of the most disruptive emerging technologies facing the profession – generative AI.
The intensive 4-hour forum organized leading practitioners, in-house counsel, thought leaders, and scholars for an illuminating exchange of ideas. Moderators assembled experts from top law firms, academia, and major corporations, bringing together various perspectives on this complex issue. These experts engaged in a lively discussion, offering novel perspectives on the swift advancements and ethical implications of artificial intelligence (AI) in business and transactional law, while thoroughly analyzing the benefits of enhanced efficiency against the possible drawbacks.
The thought-provoking sessions featured enthusiastic participation and insightful questions from the engaged audience of 265, the largest ever for the Dan K. Moore program. This vibrant exchange underscored the timeliness and importance of examining this complex issue. By tackling generative AI head-on, the UNC School of Law strengthened its commitment to equipping lawyers with the ethical knowledge necessary to leverage these emerging capabilities and ensuring its graduates are prepared to utilize cutting-edge tools to deliver top-notch legal services.
During the introduction to AI session, panelists provided an accessible yet nuanced overview comparing extractive and generative AI. They explained how sophisticated systems like ChatGPT work and explored both the immense promise and potential limitations of these technologies. The in-depth talk highlighted how generative AI marks a pivotal moment, as described by J. Michael Barker, Ph.D., Vice Chancellor for Information Technology and Chief Information Officer at UNC-Chapel Hill. He explained that generative AI “has grabbed the imagination, and it has become much more involved in the day-to-day delivery and the direction of various professions.”
The program then delved into the specifics surrounding the use of AI in transactional law. The speakers discussed specialized AI products for legal professionals, including those in development by industry titans Lexis, Westlaw, and Bloomberg. They weighed the benefits of enhanced efficiency and cost-effectiveness against possible risks and shortcomings. Thor Alden, Associate Director of Innovation at Dechert LLP, provided compelling examples of real-world AI applications, sharing his belief that “we’re going to see some of that coming out in the next months and years as firms really try to compete for business and they realize that Gen AI can really allow them to compete more effectively.”
Shifting focus to the future, the panel explored preparing law students for an AI landscape. Panelists explored ideas to equip students with essential practical skills like prompt engineering for generative AI tools. Nicole Downing, Clinical Associate Professor of Law, and Assistant Director for Public Services at UNC School of Law explained that, “Ultimately, we’re teaching legal research and reasoning, and these tools are really just that – they are tools to help in the practice of law.” The panelists agreed that while new technical skills will be important, the core of legal education should continue to be building students’ analytical abilities. Law schools can gradually implement AI systems into the curriculum to provide practical experience, while ensuring graduates have the sound judgment and ethical grounding necessary to leverage these emerging capabilities responsibly.
Bridging from legal education to professional practice, the final segment addressed pressing ethical issues surrounding use of generative AI by legal practitioners. Panelists emphasized the need for clear organizational policies, robust training programs, and vigilant oversight of attorneys leveraging these emerging capabilities to uphold legal ethical standards. Important professional responsibility concerns in the use of generative AI were also examined, including competence, communication, confidentiality, and supervision.
In assessing this cutting-edge CLE event, one thing is clear – UNC School of Law continues to spearhead vital conversations. By fostering much-needed dialogue about optimizing these rapidly evolving technologies while ensuring compliance with legal ethics standards, Carolina Law continues to serve its students, alumni, and the broader legal community.