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UCI Law Tackles Issues Posed by AI

The University of California-Irvine School of Law aims to help its students and the legal profession as a whole keep up with challenges posed by artificial intelligence, from its impact on bail decisions to product liability and privacy.

“We intend to make the study and teaching of AI and emerging technologies pervasive throughout our entire curriculum,” Dean L. Song Richardson told the Business Journal.

The law school said late last month it had received a $56,000 university grant to further boost the school’s efforts to develop a curriculum that incorporates artificial intelligence and emerging technology issues.

The money will be divided among various faculty members.

“Our overall goal is to have discussion, teaching, scholarship on these issues be pervasive, because that is the impact that these technologies are having in the legal profession more generally,” Richardson said. “The benefit of having the grant is that we can take an even deeper dive within certain subjects immediately.”

Rapidly Developing

The school acknowledges that as of now, “rapidly developing technologies outpace the law.” Richardson said legal issues will be resolved both through court cases and statutes passed by legislatures.

Law students in a class Richardson co-taught last spring drafted a bill now before the California legislature covering some issues of artificial intelligence and illegal discrimination.

“They’re having hearings on that bill,” according to Richardson. “That’s just an example of the statutory ways of laws that could be put in place to address some of the issues that arise out of AI.”

She is clear about the consequences of AI: “It impacts every area of the law.”

While the concept of artificial intelligence varies somewhat depending on who is talking, Techopedia defines it simply as an area of computer science that emphasizes the creation of intelligent machines that work and react like humans.

“Privacy issues will be incredibly important but so will criminal justice issues,” Richardson said. “We’ve already seen some of the impact … facial recognition technologies [are] having in the criminal justice realm, or when we think about bail decisions. These artificial intelligence issues are having an enormous impact.”

Criminal Suspects

Issues include determining a criminal suspect’s flight risk and the chances he or she will commit another crime while out of jail.

Machine learning and automated decision-making technologies are an increasingly integral part of modern social systems. The law school said the new technologies raise legal questions regarding oversight, individual rights, liability and justice. 

Faculty members are using their interdisciplinary expertise to ensure that law, policy and ethics keep up with these technological changes, and they are working to develop the practical legal and policy solutions to the issues posed.

Tax, Trade

The specialties of professors involved in the grant project range from environmental law to tax, trade, product liability, corporate law and even domestic violence—testifying to the sweeping scope of the issues affected by artificial intelligence.

Participating faculty members are expected to not only develop teaching materials, but also attend regular meetings with other grant recipients to discuss, test and modify their instructional approach.

“Students will be ready to meet the demand in the legal market for lawyers who have the skill-set and knowledge to tackle the important impacts these technologies are already having in the legal field,” according to the dean.

Speaker Series

The law school is hosting a colloquium series titled, “Artificial Intelligence & Law,” through April 13, to discuss legal questions surrounding these issues. Speakers include Sonia Katyal, co-director at Berkeley Center for Law & Technology, and Andrew Selbst, assistant professor at UCLA School of Law.

Richardson, who took over as interim dean in July 2017 and then as dean in January 2018, says the latest initiatives show “how innovative and special our law school is.”

UCI School of Law, which opened to its first class of students almost 11 years ago, was rated No. 23 in the country in a tie with Boston University in rankings of the nation’s top law schools, according to the U.S. News & World Report rankings for 2020.

“In my view, we are the best law school in the country,” Richardson said. “In terms of our faculty, in terms of their scholarly impact, the impact we have in the classroom with our students, and our forward thinking on what the future holds for the legal profession—we are unmatched.”

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Kevin Costelloe
Kevin Costelloe
Tech reporter at Orange County Business Journal
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