Growing Use of Tech Demands Cyber Ethics Code For Legal Sector

According to a prominent legal academic, the legal profession requires a cyber ethics code in response to the evolution of technology and its use in the practice of law.

Richard Moorhead, a professor of law and professional ethics at University College London, argues that a holistic approach is required to cope with the very different issues technology is having on the sector.

In his blog post, ‘LawTech: Time for a cybernetic legal ethics?’ Professor Moorhead declares that he is a sceptical, but overall proponent of innovation in legal services. He says that he believes that the “application of technology, principles of design, and learning from the behavioural sciences, in particular, will improve the delivery of solutions to clients with legal problems”.

However, he also states that we need “cybernetic legal ethics to cope with interlocking technologies, logic, and values that should the demanded of a good legal system.”

In the commentary, he provides an example of how “robot lawyer” DoNotPay made false assumptions when he tested the chatbot technology.

Claiming he had received a parking ticket at a hospital, the resulting draft letter stated that: “The urgency of the situation prevented me from having enough time to ensure that my parking was in complete compliance.” However, Professor Moorhead explains that he had never claimed the visit was a medical emergency. In short, DoNotPay lied on his behalf.

Professor Moorhead argues that while the technology was easy to use, it “provides a very rough, low competence version of a lawyer which may jeopardise the interests of clients with good cases” and encourages the making of misleading or dishonest claims.

In response, Professor Moorhead questions whether the ethical risks are worth the access to justice gains.

He also argues that many legal technologies and innovations fall outside of legal regulatory boundaries. And asks “How will we set standards for inadequate professional services, or negligence, for instance in relation to legal services delivered through systems? And, once risks become known, do we simply tolerate such risks, or are there levels at which we should not do so?”

The blog is an expanded version of a talk Professor Moorhead gave at a recent CILEX roundtable on law and technology.

You can read Professor Moorhead’s blog in full here.

What do you think? Do we need a cyber ethics code for lawyers and legal technologies?