Risk Update

Technology Risk — Actual AI Conflict of Interest Alleged, State Bar Proposes Lawyer Cybersecurity Certification, Lawyer Email Risk

Pras Michel of Fugees seeks new trial, contends former attorney used AI for closing argument” —

  • “Fugees star Pras Michel, who was convicted in April on charges of conspiring to make straw campaign donations, witness tampering and acting as an unregistered foreign agent for China, appears to be breaking new legal ground by calling for a new trial by claiming his defense attorneys allegedly relied on artificial intelligence to compile their final argument for the jury.”
  • “In a withering motion filed Monday night with a federal judge in Washington, Michel’s new attorneys argued that his Los Angeles-based lawyer David Kenner relied on the fledgling technology at critical points in Michel’s trial, contributing to ‘prejudicial ineffective assistance of counsel.'”
  • “Kenner ‘used an experimental artificial intelligence (AI) program to draft the closing argument, ignoring the best arguments and conflating the charged schemes, and he then publicly boasted that the AI program ‘turned hours or days of legal work into seconds,’’ Michel’s new defense team from D.C.-based ArentFox Schiff wrote.”
  • “‘It is now apparent that Kenner and his co-counsel appear to have had an undisclosed financial stake in the AI program, and they experimented with it during Michel’s trial so they could issue a press release afterward promoting the program — a clear conflict of interest.'”
  • “Zeidenberg pointed to a press release a firm called Eyelevel appears to have issued in May, which included a photo of Michel and boasted that the company’s technology ‘made history last week, becoming the first use of generative AI in a federal trial.’ The release quotes Kenner calling the AI tool ‘absolute game changer for complex litigation.'”
  • “Beyond the claims related to AI, the motion also makes a slew of other arguments criticizing Kenner’s handling of the case. Michel’s new attorneys argue that Kenner had a conflict of interest due to potential contempt of court citation over claims the defense leaked stamped grand jury exhibits to a Bloomberg reporter just prior to the start of the trial.”

Bar Cybersecurity Panel Considers Data Privacy Certification Course” —

  • “The Cybersecurity & Privacy Law Committee has agreed to sponsor an intensive, two-day training seminar that would help Florida lawyers become internationally certified in data privacy.”
  • “‘I think we should be thinking about making as many Florida Bar members IAPP certified as possible,’ said Co-Chair Franklin Zemel, referring to the International Association of Privacy Professionals. ‘I’ve been through the training in the past. They’re top-notch in every way.'”
  • “Although no agreement has been reached, the proposal would have Privacy Pro offer Florida Bar members a two-day, in-person training seminar at the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek, two days before the Bar convenes its Annual Convention there on June 19.”
    “Some committee members expressed a concern that the test, which requires 40 hours of preparation, might be too rigorous for lawyers who aren’t tech proficient.”

Blog reader and former chair of the Minnesota Lawyers Board Chuck Lundberg has published: “Quandaries & Quagmires: It’s important to know when not to use email” —

  • “‘When not to use email?’ is a relatively recent ethical inquiry, barely 20 years old. Do you remember the practice of law before email? (Depending on the size of the law firm, email use became prevalent at various stages during the 1990s.) Back then, the only ethics issue was whether information about a client’s matter could EVER be sent by unencrypted e-mail without violating the ethics rules.”
  • “It was not until 1999 that the ABA ethics committee acknowledged that a lawyer may transmit some information relating to the representation of a client by unencrypted email over the internet without violating the Model Rules of Professional Conduct. ABA Formal Opinion No. 99-413, May 10, 1999, (citing at footnote 40 an impressive full-page string cite of numerous state opinions and commentary to the same effect in 1996 – 1998). “
  • “Today, however, email is so commonplace, so easy to use, that emailing reflexively — without even thinking about it — has become the new default. This can be a serious problem. Precisely because email is the default, lawyers are all too complacent about best practices for using email effectively and proficiently. Email can be a great communication tool, but it can also be dangerous. ”
    “Avoid email when:

    • The message is extremely important or confidential and you cannot risk it falling into the wrong hands.
    • The message is emotional or sensitive or in nature.
    • When a back-and-forth conversation will be required, or when the receiver deserves the opportunity to give immediate feedback or response.”
  • “Consider this real-life scenario from the Ethical Emergencies column:
    • Sally Associate has just realized that she has made a serious and possibly damaging mistake in one of her client’s cases. [Think missing a mandatory deadline — a statute of limitations or an expert witness disclosure order.] Sally is very concerned that there may be ethics or malpractice issues, and she needs to talk with someone at the firm immediately about the mistake, about what to do now, about whether disclosure or other action is required, etc.
    • Before we get to the email issue, think about this: To whom at the firm should Sally report this emergency? Her supervising partner on the case? Her mentor? The firm’s managing partner? The firm’s ethics partner?
    • The only correct answer on these facts is the ethics partner.”
  • “Accordingly, Sally should call or meet with the ethics partner immediately. But she should not use email. Not to report the incident, or to describe or explain the problem, or to give the details, or to answer the inevitable ‘how did this happen?’ questions, etc.”
  • “But nothing in writing until then. No email. Always remember what the ‘e’ in email stands for (‘Exhibit’). The sender should imagine that the transmitted message or document has an exhibit sticker on the bottom right.”