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Natalya Balaban: AI Trends in Justice


Interview with Natalya Balaban, attorney, President of the Union of Lawyers Training Center Council, Member of the Moldova Bar Association Council.


Dear Natalya,

Our previous interview focused on the digitization project of the Bar Association of the Republic of Moldova, of which you are the author. At the time of the interview's release in May 2022, terms like "AI" and "ChatGPT" were only familiar within a limited circle. However, the topic of artificial intelligence has suddenly exploded in 2023. Given the revolutionary changes taking place, it would be interesting to discuss how artificial intelligence services can impact jurisprudence in Moldova.

I don't mind discussing this topic, but let's not limit ourselves to Moldova alone. Recently, I had the opportunity to participate in the largest conference on the digitization of justice in Europe, held in Brussels.

Were you representing Moldova at the conference?

Yes, I represented Moldova at the conference, which lasted for three days. The event was attended by lawyers, judges, prosecutors, and representatives from the executive judicial system. Every European country was represented, and Moldova, as a candidate country, had the opportunity to participate in practical sessions and innovative discussions on AI and digitization.

Three days is a significant amount of time for discussions. What were the main topics covered at the conference?

Naturally, there was extensive discussion about the trends in justice development in relation to the potential of artificial intelligence. However, equal attention was given to the associated risks. One notable idea was the transformation of the court into a place where justice is administered, rather than a space where the presence of an attorney is strictly required. This strategy is not merely a topic of discussion; it is already being implemented, leading towards complete digital transparency. The focus has shifted from questioning "whether it can be done or not" to issues of cybersecurity and process confidentiality.

But that still seems like digitization rather than artificial intelligence...

At the conference, artificial intelligence was extensively discussed, particularly in the context of working groups, alongside digitization. In fact, AI was seen as an integral part of the process. What we are currently witnessing with the use of ChatGPT is just a small part of what awaits us. In the near future, judges will write their decisions using artificial intelligence, utilizing specialized software designed for the judicial system, which will hold official status.

Regardless, I believe that humans will continue to be necessary for a considerable period to "validate" decisions suggested by artificial intelligence.

I agree. However, this presents incredible opportunities for professionals. The search and analysis of legal precedents will reach a whole new level with the integration of AI. Soon, everyone will be utilizing AI in their work. However, there will be a significant divide between those who embrace and effectively use AI and those who resist its adoption. Merely being an expert will no longer suffice, individuals will need to possess proficiency in utilizing AI tools. It's a new realm that requires adept navigation and understanding of how to effectively leverage AI. A new generation of lawyers will emerge, with a solid grasp of AI concepts, but practical experience will also be crucial. On the other hand, many practitioners may not fully grasp the advantages of AI. Overall, we are heading towards an intriguing phase of market development, where ensuring cybersecurity and confidentiality will pose significant challenges.

So, this represents a fundamental change in the market, correct?

There will indeed be risks for smaller companies that may not have the resources to afford advanced AI assistants. Following the conference, I plan to publish a series of articles for lawyers on selecting the right path of development to maintain control and avoid getting lost in the shuffle. Many professionals already utilize ChatGPT to optimize their work, not only in their daily lives but also in education. Hence, I would recommend educators to explore the new possibilities offered by AI.

While ChatGPT performs well in English, its performance in Romanian is less optimal. However, this is just a matter of time.

It is evident that in the legal field, there are numerous interpretational dilemmas that necessitate the expertise of a legal professional. What matters is the application of critical thinking and a creative approach to structuring ideas and strategies.

How would you assess the level of digitization in the legal field in Moldova compared to other countries where you have had the opportunity to familiarize yourself with existing technologies?

It may come as a surprise, but if we compare Moldova's level of digitization with many other European countries, we are among the leaders, and this is not a mere claim. Even Romania, according to expert assessments, lags far behind us. For instance, consider the achievements of Moldova's Public Services Agency, such as the ability to issue passports within a day, which is still not possible in Romania. I frequently engage with specialists implementing digitization of public services in Romania, and by comparison, I can see that we are ahead.

Of course, there is still much to be done. We have laws recognizing digital signatures, but the mechanism for cross-border verification of digital signatures is still lacking.

I am optimistic about the significant development of these processes because we have a clear path towards development, digitalization, and transparent transformation.

What is your forecast for the changes in the legal field in the next two to three years?

They will be tremendous. Artificial intelligence is already a reality, albeit not fully acknowledged. I anticipate a significant advancement in the development of professional software powered by AI, which will serve as powerful assistants to lawyers. While they won't replace humans entirely, individuals will need to acquire entirely new skills to excel in their work.

And what constitutes a successful strategy in this context?

A successful strategy involves embracing artificial intelligence. We cannot halt its progress, but we can harness it to our advantage, benefiting our profession and the community we serve. Additionally, the shift towards online judicial processes will enhance speed and efficiency. We will need to adapt to this new landscape. Therefore, I confidently assert that the legal field is entering a period of dynamic changes. Merely being a skilled professional will no longer suffice. Those who embrace digitization and integrate artificial intelligence into the legal process will lead the way forward.

Pavel Zingan

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