Getting A-Ok with AI

Greg Hardesty • January 19, 2024
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In June, a federal judge fined two New York accident attorneys for submitting fake legal history in documents supporting an aviation injury claim. The lawyers blamed the artificial intelligence tool ChatGPT for developing bogus judicial opinions and citations.

For some time now, AI-assisted technologies like ChatGPT have been transforming industries across the board including the legal profession.

With its ability to process large volumes of data far beyond the capabilities of mere mortals, AI is helping lawyers when it comes to electronic discovery, vastly speeding up the process of collecting, exchanging and reviewing information related to specific cases — especially when it comes to reviewing hundreds of documents.

Law practices also are using AI tools for document management, due diligence, litigation analysis and more. For example, litigation analytics by judge, firm, etc., are available on places like Lex Machina. And other AI tools are helping with research tasks, even reviewing lawyers’ draft briefs and suggesting new cases.

Now, at USC Gould, AI is becoming more present in the classroom in both curricula and as a teaching tool.

“Probably a quarter of USC law faculty are experimenting with ChatGPT in the classroom,” says Professor D. Daniel Sokol, the Carolyn Craig Franklin Chair in Law and professor of law and business.

“The general-purpose technology of AI is being applied across areas of law and different functions within law,” Sokol adds. “And like most law schools, we’ve had offerings here and there that focus on AI-related issues, but not in a comprehensive way.

“We’re now trying to achieve this with our curriculum. The idea is to create a greater sense of coherence both in our existing course offerings and what we need to do to fill in gaps when it comes to AI.”

Two New AI Offerings

In May 2023, USC Gould began offering a Master of Science in Innovation Economics, Law and Regulation (MIELR).

The joint course with USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences’ Department of Economics is a STEM-designed course about big data and machine-learning innovation through the lens of antitrust privacy, data security and intellectual property law.

And now in the works is a new AI minor for undergrads.

“If not the first, it will be among the first course of its kind,” Sokol says.

Undergraduate students began enrolling in a data analytics class this fall to apply toward the new minor, expected to launch in Spring 2024. Students in the JD program also will be able to enroll in a new data analytics course in 2024.

“We want to be thought leaders in the AI space — innovators on the teaching and the research side,”
he says.

Many Questions Remain

How big has AI become?

No greater authority than Pope Francis has come out with a warning about the need to be vigilant about its use, saying it must be used ethically. He specifically called out the fields of education and law in remarks he made this summer.

“The Catholic Church has 1.2 billion people under its jurisdiction,” Sokol notes. “For most of these people, these guidelines are like binding law even though they aren’t binding law.”

Professor Jef Pearlman, director of the Intellectual Property and Technology Law Clinic (IPTLC) at USC and a clinical associate professor of law, says AI touches vast of areas of law.

“Certainly, IP is a big one,” says Pearlman, noting a flurry of recent lawsuits involving AI and intellectual property.

At least one person has filed a patent application on behalf of AI as the sole inventor, Pearlman says. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office rejected the concept. That same person also tried to register a copyright on behalf of an AI tool. The copyright office and a federal court both turned down that request, saying human authorship is required. But just how much human inventorship or authorship is required is still an open question.

Regulation remains a big question when it comes to AI and the law, Pearlman and Sokol agree. Questions about central regulation vs. companies relying on self-regulation have been asked in many areas of law, and are now being considered in the context of AI, the professors say.

“It’s both old and new at the same time,” Sokol says. For now, USC Gould will focus on the best ways to equip its students to answer these and other questions when it comes to AI.

Says Sokol: “We’re trying to make AI more relevant in a way that faculty and students understand the value and the problems of this technology when it comes to legal processes and outcomes — both the costs and the benefits.

“AI matters now and is going to matter more, so we should get ahead of this.”


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