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Artificial intelligence poised to hinder, not help, access to justice

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Reuters, April 2023

The advent of ChatGPT, the fastest-growing consumer application in history, has sparked enthusiasm and concern about the potential for artificial intelligence to transform the legal system. From chatbots that conduct client intake, to tools that assist with legal research, document management, even writing legal briefs, AI has been touted for its potential to increase efficiency in the legal industry. It’s also been recognized for its ability to help close the access-to-justice gap by making legal help and services more broadly accessible to marginalized groups.

Most low-income U.S. households deal with at least one civil legal problem a year, concerning matters like housing, healthcare, child custody and protection from abuse, according to the Legal Services Corp. They don’t receive legal help for 92% of those problems. Moreover, our poorly-funded public defense system for criminal matters has been a broken process for decades. AI and similar technologies show promise in their ability to democratize legal services, including applications such as online dispute resolution and automated document preparation.

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