Keep your finger on the legal world's pulse
23rd February 2024
DOJ taps first chief AI officer amid rising tech concerns
The U.S. Justice Department has appointed its first official focused on artificial intelligence (AI) as it grapples with the potential impact of AI on federal law enforcement and the criminal justice system. Jonathan Mayer, a professor at Princeton University, will serve as the chief science and technology adviser and chief AI officer. Attorney General Merrick Garland stated that the department must keep up with the rapidly evolving scientific and technological developments to uphold the rule of law and protect civil rights. Mayer will advise Garland and the department leadership on integrating AI responsibly into investigations and criminal prosecutions. The Justice Department has already used AI in various ways, such as tracing the source of illegal drugs and analyzing tips submitted to the FBI. However, there are concerns about the potential biases and risks associated with AI technology. Mayer will lead a board of law enforcement and civil rights officials to advise on the ethics and efficacy of AI systems. He will also work on recruiting more technological experts to the department.
GenAI still in 'experimentation' phase for corporate legal departments
Corporate legal departments are still in the "experimentation" phase of using generative artificial intelligence (AI) technology, according to Ed Sohn, global head of insights and innovation at legal consultancy Factor. Generative AI has the potential to transform the legal industry by helping lawyers draft contracts and briefs, and making legal research and e-discovery more efficient. However, legal departments are still working to understand its implications. The Sense Collective, led by Factor, brings together general counsel and heads of legal operations from companies including Adobe, Ford, Intel, and Microsoft to discuss the best use of generative AI tools like Microsoft Copilot. The group will explore the impact of generative AI on legal department investments, in-process initiatives, and other functions within a business. The Sense Collective's outputs will be limited to members and not commercialized. The group will also monitor the development of retrieval-augmented generation (RAG) technology, which can enhance the accuracy of generative AI tools.
Transatlantic legal shift: Applying EU AI liability directive in U.S. courts
A European model for litigating artificial intelligence (AI), based on the EU Liability Directive, should be applied to the U.S. court system, according to legal experts Albert Fox Cahn and Nina Loshkajian. They argue that current procedural roadblocks prevent those harmed by AI from seeking justice in court. The EU Liability Directive places the burden on defendants in AI litigation to prove that their system operated legally and did not harm the plaintiff, which is an inversion of the standard civil procedure. By implementing this model in the U.S., it would give AI victims their day in court and align incentives for institutions to use transparent AI tools. The authors emphasize the need for reform in civil procedure rules to address the challenges posed by AI.
AI to supercharge knowledge management
Patrick DiDomenico, founder of InspireKM Consulting and innovation and knowledge management advisor to law firms, claims that AI is set to revolutionize knowledge management (KM), contrary to the belief that KM is dead. Mary O'Carroll, a legal operations professional, claimed that AI would eliminate the need for KM. However, DiDomenico contends that KM is not just a technology tool, but a discipline that aims to make the best use of collective knowledge and experience. He says that while technology tools like AI can improve accessibility and efficiency in finding and creating content, they do not replace the core objectives of KM. In fact, DiDomenico argues that AI enhances KM by strengthening connections and making knowledge more accessible and collaborative. He concludes that the integration of AI in KM is crucial for law firms and legal departments to stay at the forefront of innovation. 
Law firm's use of AI tool for fee estimation rejected by judge
A federal judge has rejected a law firm's attempt to estimate fees using ChatGPT. The Cuddy Law Firm sought over $113,000 in fees, partially relying on ChatGPT's feedback. However, the judge awarded just over $53,000 and criticized the firm for its use of the artificial intelligence (AI) tool. The judge stated that treating ChatGPT's conclusions as a useful gauge for billing rates was misbegotten. The judge warned the firm to refrain from referencing ChatGPT in future fee requests. The case is JG, individually and on behalf of GG v New York City Department of Education, 23-cv-959, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).
Precruiting to increase in 2024, say Big Law recruiting directors
Precruiting will increase in 2024, according to Big Law recruiting directors. The decision by Yale and Stanford law schools to move their virtual on-campus interviews (OCI) to June instead of July or August will not impact law firm recruitment strategy. Law firms are enticed by the efficiency of meeting with qualified applicants who seek them out, rather than a slate of law students who may not meet their requirements. The move to June OCI could also influence law firms to begin recruiting 1Ls even earlier. The National Association of Law Placement expects the number of summer associate offers extended outside of OCI to continue increasing. However, the decline of OCI could create new problems for law firms, particularly for first-generation lawyers who benefited from the level playing field that OCI provided. Firms are working to standardize their precruitment programs and communicate deadlines to address this concern. Precruiting has been on the rise since 2018, and some firms are beginning 1L recruitment in January and February. The future of OCI may be in jeopardy if precruiting continues to grow in popularity. Law schools and firms must increase outreach and make precruiting information available to all law students to minimize the impact on students' decision-making process.
California's Legislative Black Caucus introduces reparations bills
Members of California's Legislative Black Caucus are introducing a package of 14 reparations bills to address historic wrongs against the Black community. The bills seek to compensate those affected by race-based eminent domain cases, demand an apology for human rights violations, and fund community-based programs to reduce violence. However, the proposed bills do not include cash reparations, which has drawn criticism. The bills are the first legislative action following a 1,100-page report delivered by the California reparations task force. Americans are divided on the issue, with 60% of Democrats supporting reparations compared to 18% of Republicans. The bills aim to address decades of laws and policies that have restricted and alienated Black Americans. While some praise the legislative steps, others argue that cash payments should be made to Black Californians, similar to payments made to other wronged groups in the U.S.
Federal judge delays implementation of NLRB rule on contract and franchise workers
A federal judge in Texas has delayed the implementation of a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) rule that would treat many companies as employers of contract and franchise workers. The rule's effective date has been pushed back from February 26 to March 11 as the judge weighs a bid by major business groups to strike it down. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other industry groups filed a lawsuit claiming that the rule violates federal labor law and will cause disruptions in industries relying on temporary and contract labor. The rule would consider companies as joint employers and require them to bargain with unions when they have control over key working conditions.
South Carolina prison policy violates inmates' free speech rights, says civil rights group
A civil rights organization has filed a federal lawsuit against the South Carolina Department of Corrections, claiming that the prison policy banning inmates from speaking to reporters in person or having their writings directly published violates their First Amendment free speech rights. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) argues that the blanket ban on media interviews and direct publishing of inmates' writings prevents public accountability and suppresses knowledge about violence committed against prisoners. The lawsuit also challenges the ban on inmates directly publishing their own words, citing examples such as Martin Luther King Jr.'s Letter from Birmingham Jail and the New Testament books written by the Apostle Paul while imprisoned in Rome. The ACLU plans to request a federal judge to suspend the ban until the lawsuit is fully heard. South Carolina prison officials argue that restrictions on inmate speech are permissible as long as they are not based on the content of the speech and all avenues of communication are not cut off.
L.A. County sues Grubhub over false advertising
Los Angeles County has filed a lawsuit against Grubhub, accusing the food delivery company of false advertising and deceptive practices. The lawsuit alleges that Grubhub promotes meals at a cheaper price than what customers actually pay at the checkout page, violating state laws. The county argues that Grubhub's practices mislead consumers, restaurants, and delivery drivers. Grubhub plans to defend itself in court, stating that its practices comply with the law and many of the allegations are incorrect. The lawsuit highlights the need to prevent surprise charges for consumers and protect the rights of drivers and restaurants. A new state law will prohibit last-minute "junk fees" across various businesses, including delivery apps. The attorney general's office has stated that delivery apps cannot add miscellaneous fees at the end of transactions. The lawsuit aims to hold Grubhub accountable for its practices and protect the interests of consumers, restaurants, and workers.
Sole searching: Louboutin steps into Trump's red territory
Luxury brand Christian Louboutin is facing a dilemma over former President Donald Trump's new red-bottomed sneakers. The brand must decide whether to challenge Trump for trademark infringement or risk losing the protection of its iconic red soles. Louboutin's trademark, covering red soles on women's high fashion designer shoes, has been registered since 2008. The brand has a history of enforcing its trademark and has filed multiple lawsuits to protect its red-sole mark. Social media users have commented on the similarities between Trump's sneakers and Louboutin's red soles, expressing support for Louboutin to take legal action. However, the brand must consider the potential political backlash and business consequences of such a move. Failure to enforce trademark rights could weaken or remove Louboutin's mark. Louboutin has several options to respond, including sending a cease-and-desist letter, but must carefully consider the legal and public relations implications. Trump may have potential defenses, such as arguing that the sneakers are not in the same market as Louboutin's high-fashion shoes.


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