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Addressing the ‘new frontier’ of AI to be central for NSW practitioners in 2024

The Law Society of NSW is set to launch an AI taskforce to assist the state’s legal professionals with the challenges of emerging technology. Lawyers can, president Brett McGrath says, either embrace artificial intelligence or run from it, but “either way, we have to deal with it”.

user iconJerome Doraisamy 31 January 2024 SME Law
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Speaking with Lawyers Weekly ahead of the NSW-based Opening of Law Term Dinner, being held tonight (Wednesday, 31 January), Law Society of NSW president Brett McGrath stressed the critical need for practitioners across Australia’s most populous state to be better equipped to navigate the age of AI.

“We take, as solicitors, our duty to the court and to the community very seriously. AI is a new frontier, and we can either embrace it or we can run from it, and either way, we have to deal with it,” he mused.

Mr McGrath said that both he and the Law Society understand that those in the community “want a trusted source of expert advice and assistance to help guide them through, so that [lawyers] can then, in turn, guide and advise their clients, and also guide the court, on new and emerging areas of jurisprudence which will come through with AI, self-driving cars, for example, and also how to deal with things such as deepfakes in evidence”.


Ensuring that practitioners and the courts are well informed and better supported in adapting to technological change is a headline priority for the new president of the NSW-based member body, with his address at the Opening of Law Term Dinner to stress that “we are now living in a world where the camera does lie”.

“Right now, the reality of being a lawyer, of dealing with people and human problems, means AI won’t replace us anytime soon. But, as experts are pointing out: another lawyer, using AI, might,” Mr McGrath will tell those in attendance.

To address such concerns and the broader questions about the use of emerging tech, ethical quandaries, concerns about regulation and changes to billing and costs, the Law Society of NSW is establishing an AI taskforce for the purposes of guidance, policy, best practice, and education.

It will further aim to identify “pressing” innovation and tech trends and provide guidance for optimal use.

The taskforce will comprise, Mr McGrath told Lawyers Weekly, experts ranging from academics to ethicists, legal profession leaders and court advocates, as well as those “front the frontline”, such as police and the Department of Communities and Justice.

AI is set, Mr McGrath added, to “affect every age bracket, every demographic of practitioner, whether you’re in a city firm or if you’re in a regional area, or if you’re working as a government lawyer as well”. As such, he said, a “big-picture approach” is needed to the composition and strategy of those involved.

“The goal for the AI taskforce is to be a trusted source of expert advice and assistance for the Law Society and, through it, for the solicitor profession of NSW. The work of the taskforce will enhance the Law Society’s work to ensure that NSW leads the way in harnessing the best that AI has to offer for the legal profession while mitigating the risks,” he proclaimed in a statement ahead of the dinner.

In recent weeks, Lawyers Weekly has reported on Mr McGrath’s commentary pertaining to proposed new jury laws, which could result in rushed verdicts, and the need for expert consultation on hate speech reforms.

Elsewhere, Mr McGrath is making celebration of lawyers’ service to their communities and solicitor wellbeing as his other key priorities for the year ahead.

Of special interest to the president is the need to help retired lawyers continue their service once they have exited practice.

“Retired solicitors with a desire to remain an active part of our legal community have a lifetime’s work and learning in law from which we can all benefit,” he argued.

“I’m committed to identifying barriers to this service and promoting opportunities for retired lawyers to continue their dedication to the wider community.”

Reflecting on his new role, Mr McGrath also told Lawyers Weekly that assuming the presidency of the Law Society of NSW is a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity”.

“I see my role as amplifying the best of the work of the society, also being a strong advocate and voice for the legal profession on issues of law reform, court resourcing in particular, and identifying areas where we can better ourselves and our wellbeing as practitioners,” he espoused.