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Harvard Law School and Berkman Klein Center Announce New AI and the Law Initiative

Founded at Harvard Law School, the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society studies cyberspace.
Founded at Harvard Law School, the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society studies cyberspace. By Julian J. Giordano
By Neil H. Shah, Crimson Staff Writer

Harvard Law School and the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society are set to jointly launch the Initiative on Artificial Intelligence and the Law, the school announced in a press release last week.

According to the release, the initiative hopes to target “new challenges and opportunities for the law created by the rise of artificial intelligence” and will be jointly directed by Law School professor Oren Bar-Gill and University Professor Cass R. Sunstein ’75.

The initiative comes amid an institutional reckoning at Harvard on how to address the rise of AI. Earlier this month, the University released its first guidelines on the use of generative AI tools like OpenAI’s ChatGPT.

Harvard also launched its Kempner Institute for the Study of Natural and Artificial Intelligence last September following a $500 million pledge from Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan ’07, among other research initiatives around the rapidly developing technology.

In the Law School’s statement, Sunstein said addressing artificial intelligence’s impact on the law is “one of the most important and challenging issues of our time.”

In addition to its faculty directors, the initiative will be advised by a group of Law School faculty members that includes former Law School Dean Martha L. Minow and Law School professor and Berkman Klein Center co-founder Jonathan L. Zittrain, who also holds appointments in the Computer Science Department and at the Harvard Kennedy School.

“I am delighted that thoughtful, creative, and rigorous colleagues from across multiple fields at Harvard Law School have come together to help launch the Initiative on Artificial Intelligence and the Law and to explore the role of law in understanding and shaping this powerful technology,” Law School Dean John F. Manning ’82 said in the press release.

According to the announcement, the initiative is intended to “sponsor and promote new work” at the intersection of artificial intelligence and the law at the school, facilitate discussion through “conferences and symposia,” and publish “preliminary reports on emerging topics.”

“The initiative will begin by coordinating existing or planned activities by HLS faculty members in this space,” Bar-Gill wrote in an emailed statement, adding that “some of these activities will definitely begin this fall.”

Per the release, a book written by Bar-Gill and Sunstein on “algorithms and consumer protection” is expected to be one of the initiative’s first products. In his email, Bar-Gill wrote that the book would be about the “increasing use of AI by sellers, service providers and employers” and on related legal concerns and policy responses.

In addition to his ongoing work with Sunstein on consumer protection, Bar-Gill also identified the implications that large language models like ChatGPT have for the law as an “emerging topic” that the initiative hopes to address.

With regards to new courses or workshops at the Law School, Bar-Gill wrote that while the initiative itself would not be responsible for launching them, it would “definitely support and encourage such courses/workshops by connecting faculty members to one another and to relevant resources.”

“I know that HLS is interested in hiring excellent faculty in this space. And IAIL will support the work of current HLS faculty who wish to do work in AI and the Law,” he wrote.

—Staff writer Neil H. Shah can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @neilhshah15.

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