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Law Schools Embrace AI Integration Amid Policy Uncertainty

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As artificial intelligence technology is getting accommodated from one aspect to another, the area of legal education is going with the flow.

Across most law schools in the US, AI has been unrolling as a growing integration in the world of law. The change has a lot to do with the need to best prepare future lawyers for a world in which AI will be playing a major supporting role in virtually all aspects of legal practice, privacy, ethics, etc. However, with so much preference for adopting AI, there still prevails a great degree of ambiguity over very distinct AI policies, especially on admissions and classroom use.

Law Schools Embrace AI Integration Amid Policy Uncertainty

(Photo : PEXELS / Tony Schnagl)

The Rise of AI in Law School Curriculums

The technologically generated advancement in artificial intelligence is steadily finding its way into the inclusions of curricula in law schools across the United States. In reflecting that trend, this integration escalates the importance of AI in shaping the legal profession.

Over half of the 29 law schools surveyed by the American Bar Association offer courses on artificial intelligence, according to the ABA and the ABA Task Force on Law and Artificial Intelligence. Of special note, 62% are teaching artificial intelligence from day one in the law school experience. 83% host clinics, intensives, and other student-facing experiences that incorporate AI, often in coordination with university engineering, computer science, and data science departments. The trend suggests that those in the community of legal educators have come to understand the growing necessity of AI skills on the part of the new law workforce.

For instance, the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law at Arizona State University offers classes in AI and has an AI-focused legal operation, privacy, and ethics certificate. ASU Law professor Stacy Leeds added that the classes would afford the students "unparalleled access to explore the intersection of law and technology. This will position them for success in the rapidly changing legal landscape.".

READ MORE: Researchers Use AI Tools Despite Data Security Concerns, Report Finds 

Different Approaches to AI Education

Course offerings related to AI vastly differ across law schools. Some courses only address the impact that AI technology has on Big Tech and the First Amendment, while others teach AI tools and their related legal effects. Even in traditional legal writing, drafting, and analytics classes, AI is being used. The trend is expected to rise and, according to 85% of the law schools surveyed, is already under consideration for modifying their curriculum to encompass more AI content.

Gary Marchant, a professor and faculty director of the Center for Law, Science, and Innovation at ASU Lawsays, "Using AI is such a crucial skill for future attorneys. Law firms and other legal employers need young lawyers who are comfortable in utilizing AI as it becomes increasingly important to the practice of law.". He predicts that within five years, successful lawyers will have to be using AI in their practice. "Many practicing lawyers don't have the time or inclination to learn AI themselves. So legal employers will be relying on their new recruits to become the AI implementers in their firm," he added. The concern is on how students will set themselves up for a legal field as intelligent service continually changes and adapts with AI. With a grasp of AI and the ability to apply it, future attorneys can provide more efficient and innovative solutions to clients.

Uncertainty of AI Policies

Despite the need for early education, most law schools are unsure of the policy details regarding AI use, especially in the application process. In most of the schools, while they encourage students to get an education in artificial intelligence, only 38% of the institutions recorded in the survey were comfortable with potential students applying AI to their work, while 62% were unsure about how to handle the issue.

At Pritzker Law, the broader policy bars students from using generative AI to produce content in assignments, unless it is specifically approved by the professor. This varied approach highlights the widespread uncertainty in legal education about integrating and regulating AI.

The lack of clear policies attests to the cautionary approach toward AI, contrasting potential benefits with the accompanying concerns about ethical implications and academic integrity. As law schools come to grips with these challenges, the landscape of comprehensive policies around AI will be critical for student effectiveness in AI integration into legal education and in ensuring responsibility.

The integration of AI will take legal education in law school to another level as it prepares students for a future where technology is at the center of the legal world-but, yet again, the uncertainty of specific AI policies supports a huge need for constant discourse and careful consideration imposed upon law schools by such technological advancement.

RELATED ARTICLE: Survey Reveals Majority Of Institutions Lag In AI Policy And Curriculum Adaptation 

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