Tim Fisher Quoted in Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly: Judge Sanctions Attorney Misled by AI, Offers ‘Broader Lesson’ to Bar

Excerpted from the February 22, 2024 issue of Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly

A Massachusetts attorney was sanctioned for “introducing false or misleading information into court after being led astray by artificial intelligence systems." Superior Court Judge Brian Davis couldn’t find three of the cases cited and the fourth was “bogus.”

The attorney stated that he had reviewed the submitted documents for “style, grammar, and flow,” but did not validate the citations, which had been drafted by a “trusted associate and two recent law school graduates who had not yet passed the bar.” He was contrite and sought to quickly correct the record, resulting in a $2,000 sanction that the court called “mild given the seriousness of the violations.”

Pierce Atwood patent attorney Timothy V. Fisher, a member of the firm’s AI/Machine Learning Practice Group, mentioned that “publicly available AI tools do not apply rules but rather imitate training data. It doesn’t have a conceptual understanding of what it’s giving you. It just knows that it looks good.” Tim added that on the “other evolutionary branch are tools tailored for the legal profession, which in time will have ‘guardrails’ to make sure that they are quoting cases exactly and returning the right citation for them.

“But again, an attorney has a responsibility to make sure what they file with the court has been checked and is accurate, and it doesn’t matter how it was created or written or generated.”

Tim predicts that these tools will quickly become effective, but also be “quite expensive, deepening an age-old divide. Large or profitable firms will be able to develop their own tools or subscribe to services, while smaller, leaner practices will struggle to keep up.

“They are going to have to ‘brute force’ everything the way they have done traditionally, and I think it’s ultimately the clients that are going to be disadvantaged by that,” he says.

Click here for the complete article by Kris Olson that appeared on February 22, 2024.