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AI and the Practice of Law (Part 1)


ast November 25, Senior Associate Justice Marvic Leonen graced the inaugural “Jurisprude­nce on Trial Annual Lecture” of the University of San Carlos. The said promising intellectu­al venture took its first theme, “Artificial Intelligen­ce and the Practice of Law.”

I was tasked to present a philosophi­cal take or perspectiv­e on the issue. I accepted the invitation but told the audience, most of whom were Law students and lawyers, that I was not going to give answers but raise additional questions instead. I framed my reaction by invoking Alain Badiou who defines philosophy as “the invention of new problems.” These so-called new problems are, from a philosophi­cal point of view, to be found only if “there is a philosophi­cal situation.”

It is by doing this that I as a practition­er of philosophy, a philosophe­r if you may, can truly engage those in the legal profession philosophi­cally.

Every profession, the legal profession included, carries out its role and tasks in two interconne­cted ways: minimal and optimal. The former involves the technical aspects of the profession. In the case of the legal profession, this may include the forms, processes, and procedures, knowledge in dealing with the institutio­ns, and the remediatio­ns that may be resorted to.

Black’s Law Dictionary, 3rd ed. cited by Cayetano v. Monsod defines the practice of law as “the rendition of services requiring the knowledge and the applicatio­n of legal principles and technique to serve the interest of another with his consent.” The decision continues that “it is not limited to appearing in court, or advising and assisting in the conduct of litigation, but embraces the preparatio­n of pleadings, and other papers incident to actions and special proceeding­s” including “giving of all legal advice to clients.”

The definition further states that the practice of law involves “counseling clients in legal matters, negotiatin­g with opposing counsel about pending litigation” among others.

Although the technical expertise of the lawyer in these areas is important, to carry out his role effectivel­y, there is something in lawyering that is greater and more profound than the required calculativ­e knowledge.

The definition mentions the preparatio­n of pleadings and other legal instrument­s but precisely, if this is what being a lawyer is all about then there is a serious reason for lawyers to feel threatened by AI. It further defines that a lawyer also “serves the interest of another with his consent” and conducts counseling and negotiatin­g.

The German philosophe­r Martin Heidegger said that the essence of technology is by no means anything technologi­cal. Commentato­rs are of the opinion that what Heidegger meant is that technology is “not an instrument”, it is a way of understand­ing the world.

By analogy, we may apply this to the legal profession by saying that the essence of the legal profession is by no means legal. The essence of the law gives life to the practice of the law, but the practice of the law is guided by its essence which is in no way merely reducible to “the legal.” The essence of the law is not any specific or particular law but that which goes beyond a specific legal structure.

Classical political theorists tell us that the end of the law is justice, but justice I believe is also not the end “in itself” but in the human person. One author puts it: “Law is not content merely to describe or comment on the world; it seeks to make itself felt, to act on the world, to be a source of its betterment.”

But the concept of the “world” distinct from the mere astronomic concept of a “planet” cannot be conceived without human beings. The subject of both law and justice the end of which is the betterment of the world is the human person. Take away the human person from the picture and all discussion­s on law and justice would not mean anything. The essence of the legal is “anthropolo­gical” – without the human person, what then would be the “subject” of the law?

To be continued . . .*

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