Access to A.I. Justice: Avoiding an Inequitable Two-Tiered System of Legal Services

Drew Simshaw
24 Yale J.L. & Tech. 150

Artificial intelligence (AI) has been heralded for its potential to help close the access to justice gap. It can increase efficiencies, democratize access to legal information, and help consumers solve their own legal problems or connect them with licensed professionals who can. But some fear that increased reliance on AI will lead to one or more two-tiered systems: the poor might be stuck with inferior AI-driven assistance; only expensive law firms might be able to effectively harness legal AI; or, AI’s impact might not disrupt the status quo where only some can afford any type of legal assistance. The realization of any of these two-tiered systems would risk widening the justice gap. But the current regulation of legal services fails to account for the practical barriers preventing effective design of legal AI across the landscape, which make each of these two-tiered systems more likely.

Therefore, this Article argues that jurisdictions should embrace certain emerging regulatory reforms because they would facilitate equitable and meaningful access to legal AI across the legal problem-solving landscape, including by increasing competition and opportunities for collaboration across the legal services and technology industries. The Article provides a framework that demonstrates how this collaboration of legal and technical expertise will help stakeholders design and deploy AI-driven tools and services that are carefully calibrated to account for the specific consumers, legal issues, and underlying processes in each case. The framework also demonstrates how collaboration is critical for many stakeholders who face barriers to accessing and designing legal-AI due to insufficient resources, resilience, and relationships. The Article then advocates for regulatory priorities, reforms, and mechanisms to help stakeholders overcome these barriers and help foster legal AI access across the landscape.