Artificial Intelligence

The Intersection of AI and Ethics: Unraveling the British Columbia Legal Scandal

Written by Russell Alexander / (905) 655-6335

Once again, the intersection of artificial intelligence (AI) and the legal profession has made headlines, underscoring the importance of ethical and responsible use of technology in legal practice. This time, however, the story hits closer to home, as a British Columbia family law lawyer faces scrutiny for submitting fake case law to the courts after utilizing AI technology.

Eight months ago, we reported on a story that rattled the legal community of news that two New York lawyers were facing possible sanctions for submitting documents to the court that were generated by AI and contained references to nonexistent prior court rulings. Now, a similar incident has emerged in British Columbia, shedding light on the potential ramifications of AI misuse in legal proceedings.

According to an article published by Global News on January 31, 2024, Chong Ke, a family law lawyer in British Columbia, is currently under investigation by the Law Society of B.C. for submitting fabricated case law to the courts. It was revealed that Ke had utilized ChatGPT, an AI language model, to prepare legal briefs for a family law case at the B.C. Supreme Court. However, upon review by opposing counsel, it was discovered that some of the cited cases did not exist.

Lorne MacLean, one of the lawyers representing the opposing side, expressed grave concerns about the implications of the case, stating, “The impact of the case is chilling for the legal community. If we don’t fact-check artificially-generated intelligence materials and they’re inaccurate, it can lead to an existential threat to the legal system.”

This incident underscores the dual nature of AI in the legal profession. While AI can offer significant benefits, particularly in improving access to justice for low to middle-income individuals and reducing costs for those who seek assistance from legal professionals, it also highlights the paramount importance of ensuring accuracy and integrity in legal proceedings.

According to the Law Society of Ontario Rules of Professional Conduct, lawyers have a duty to act competently and diligently in their clients’ best interests. This includes one who “has and applies relevant knowledge, skills and attributes in a manner appropriate to each matter undertaken on behalf of a client (s. 3.1-1). While AI can serve as a valuable tool in legal research and drafting, it should always be used as a starting point, with lawyers exercising due diligence to verify the information provided.

Golan Yaron, Associate Lawyer

As technology continues to evolve, it is incumbent upon legal professionals to adapt and integrate AI responsibly into their practice.

This case serves as a cautionary tale, reminding us of the critical importance of maintaining ethical standards and accountability in the use of AI in the legal profession.

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About the author

Russell Alexander

Russell Alexander is the Founder & Senior Partner of Russell Alexander Collaborative Family Lawyers.