The Visionaries – Does AI belong in dispute resolution?

Instead of debating whether AI should or shouldn’t have a place in disputes, practitioners may be better served by embracing the inevitability that AI isn’t going anywhere. The question isn’t whether AI should have a place in disputes, but rather, what can we as practitioners do to leverage AI’s efficiencies while avoiding its pitfalls? By now, most litigators are likely well aware of the dangers of taking a backseat to generative AI in drafting critical legal documents — none of us wants to end up in hot water with the ethics committee (or worse, our malpractice insurers) for unwittingly relying on mythical case citations fabricated entirely by ChatGPT. However, if properly implemented, AI can be a powerful tool for maximising efficiency and perhaps even streamlining law practice and leading to more efficient dispute resolution.

Is generative AI already being used in dispute resolution in your jurisdiction?

It’s likely safe to assume that other practitioners are utilising some form of generative AI in preparing and arguing their cases, however there is no indication that generative AI is yet being used as part of the process for presiding over disputes in Massachusetts. That is to say, there is no indication that generative AI is ready to replace the services of mediators, arbitrators, judges or other neutrals in determining the merits or dictating the outcomes of disputes in Massachusetts — nor is AI likely to ever fully replace the need for human neutrals. However, it’s not unrealistic to expect that, in the future, generative AI could be leveraged to more efficiently dispose of certain kinds of disputes in Massachusetts.

Court-related online dispute resolution (ODR) platforms have been piloted in other jurisdictions to aid litigants in resolving disputes exclusively online and without the need for interaction with or appearance in the courts. In the United Kingdom, the Road Traffic Accident (RTA) Small Claims Protocol prompts litigants to use the court’s online claims portal to attempt resolution of low-exposure personal injury claims arising out of road traffic accidents (https://www. officialinjuryclaim.org.uk). If claims can’t be resolved on the portal, they may move back and forth between the portal and the courts as necessary until the claim is disposed. Courts in British Columbia have a similar court-annexed ODR program available in small claims matters as well. Closer to home for Massachusetts practitioners, the New Hampshire Judicial Branch may also be considering whether development of an ODR platform may be viable there (https://www.mclane.com/insights/ ai-a-tool-to-augment-online-disputeresolution/).

Although the Massachusetts Judicial Branch does not currently have a court-annexed ODR program, there has been discussion about developing AI chatbots on government websites to aid pro se litigants in navigating the state court system. A feature like this has promising implications for access to justice and, if reliably programmed, such an application may improve the quality of self-representation and better equip pro se litigants who may not be experienced in interacting with the court system. With the Massachusetts government expressing goals of positioning the Commonwealth to be a “hub” for the development of AI technology, it would be unsurprising to see a surge of activity in the future along these lines.

Read more in our brand-new publication, The Visionaries