In a speech given today (14 September 2023) at The Law Society’s Dispute Resolution Conference, Lord Justice Birss, a Judge of the Court of Appeal and the Deputy Head of Civil Justice, spoke of how he has used the AI software when preparing a judgment.
On the subject of AI and large language models, he described the technology as having “real potential”. Going further, Birss LJ said “[i]t is useful and it will be used and I can tell you, I have used it”. Explaining how he had made use of the AI technology, he went on to say:
“I asked it to give me a summary of an area of law I was writing a judgment about.
I thought I would try it. I asked ChatGPT 'can you give me a summary of this area of law?', and it gave me a paragraph. I know what the answer is because I was about to write a paragraph that said that, but it did it for me and I put it in my judgment. It’s there and it’s jolly useful”.
He did however, in very clear terms, recognise that the use of AI did not absolve him of responsibility for what he has included in the judgment.
“I’m taking full personal responsibility for what I put in my judgment, I am not trying to give the responsibility to somebody else. All it did was a task which I was about to do and which I knew the answer and could recognise an answer as being acceptable.”
This comes a few months after Sir Geoffrey Vos, Master of the Rolls, posed the question “…when, if ever, judicial decisions are likely to be taken by machines rather than judges”. He went on to answer that question to confirm his view that AI will “…at some stage, be used to take some (at first, very minor) decisions”.
Whilst clearly Birrs LJ was using AI as a reference tool rather than in any decision making capacity it further signals the senior judiciary’s openness to the use of AI. In the same speech, the Master of the Rolls commented on how the English legal system has grown in status as an international dispute resolution centre in modern times. Perhaps to maintain its position, English judges will see being an early adopter of AI technology as an imperative.
For more information, please contact Liam Tolen.
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