Artificial Intelligence and ChatGPT in Legal Practice: Navigating the Pros and Cons
There’s a reason tools like ChatGPT, Bing Chat and Google Bard are on the radar of the majority of legal professionals: Generative artificial intelligence (AI) has the potential to transform the legal industry and usher in a new era of AI-powered legal workflows.
Head of SME and External Education MyCase
In fact, according to a recent report form Lexis Nexis, 86% of legal professionals are aware of generative AI and more than a third of lawyers have used it either personally or professionally.
These technologies will undoubtedly impact the way legal professionals get work done in the months and years to come. However, in their current form, they also present significant implementation challenges.
Generative AI tools like ChatGPT are AI-powered chatbots that provide human-like responses to natural language queries. These tools can understand and respond to a wide range of questions and serve up near-instantaneous responses.
ChatGPT can increase overall law firm efficiency and the quality of legal work. It can be used for a variety of tasks including legal research, document drafting, trial preparation and law firm management. It’s available as a standalone chatbot, and a free version is available. After test-driving it, you may want to sign up for ChatGPT Plus, which costs $20/month and offers consistent uptime and prioritized access to new features, including access to GPT4. Many legal technology companies are also incorporating generative pretraining transformer (GPT) technology into their platforms as well.
HOW CAN LAWYERS USE CHATGPT?
There are many ways lawyers and legal professionals can use generative AI as part of their daily workflow. Use cases are varied, and include:
Summarizing transcripts: Enter text from a transcript and request a summary.
Drafting sample agreements like nondisclosure agreements: ChatGPT will often provide a draft that is a good starting point from which you can craft a robust document.
Preparing for direct or cross-examination: Specify the issues unique to your case and use the resulting questions as food for thought when crafting your direct or cross-examination of a witness.
Crafting voir dire: Your query should identify the type of case and an issue you’d like to explore during voir dire. Use the resulting output to draft questions for the jury panel.
Client intake forms: Submit a request for the creation of forms for specific types of cases and modify the results to suit your needs.
Retainer agreement: Identify key clauses and concepts you’d like included and update the form provided to include information specific to your firm and the client’s case.
Letters to clients: Draft opening and closing letters for different types of cases and create templates that can be easily replicated across matters.
ASSESSING THE BENEFITS AND RISKS
These tools are very versatile and have the potential to enhance a wide range of legal technology products. The benefits of using generative AI are evident, but there are also drawbacks that should be top of mind.
First, ChatGPT can sometimes provide inaccurate or misleading information, a phenomenon that is referred to as hallucinations. Because available generative AI tools continue to provide responses that include inaccuracies and flat-out falsehoods, it’s critical to have adequate foundational knowledge about all topics you plan to ask about. Once you’ve received a response to your inquiry, you’ll need to carefully review all answers provided so that you can identify any errors in the output. Plus, as of publication, ChatGPT is only trained in info through September 2021, so anything that’s happened since then won’t be included.
“If you don’t take steps to learn about and incorporate these tools into your law practice, rest assured, your competitors will.”
Second, when using generative AI tools, always keep client confidentiality top of mind. It’s imperative that you fully understand how all data queries are handled and who has access to them. If you are unable to adjust the product’s privacy settings to reduce or eliminate data sharing for product improvement purposes or otherwise, you’ll need to refrain from including any confidential client information when submitting queries to the chatbot.
Finally, in addition to being vigilant about confidentiality, it’s important to maintain technology competence by ensuring that you understand both the capabilities and limitations of any AI tools you use in your practice. Lawyers must also supervise all third parties working on a matter, including the work produced by AI. It’s crucial to ensure that all work produced meets the standards required of legal professionals and is free from mistakes or inaccuracies.
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
Despite its current shortcomings, generative AI tools like ChatGPT have the potential to significantly enhance efficiency in the delivery of legal services and reduce the common frictions encountered in the practice of law. As AI technologies like ChatGPT continue to evolve, their accuracy and utility will undoubtedly increase.
Legal professionals who embrace these tools and learn to use them effectively and ethically will be well-positioned to harness their power to improve their practices and better serve their clients. If you don’t take steps to learn about and incorporate these tools into your law practice, rest assured, your competitors will.
About the Author
Nicole Black is the Head of SME and External Education at MyCase legal practice management software, an AffiniPay company. A Rochester, New York attorney, author, journalist, she’s a nationally recognized author of Cloud Computing for Lawyers and co-author of Social Media for Lawyers: The Next Frontier, both published by the American Bar Association. She also co-authored Criminal Law in New York, a Thomson Reuters treatise. She writes regular columns for Above the Law, ABA Journal and The Daily Record, has authored hundreds of articles for other publications, and regularly speaks at conferences regarding the intersection of law and emerging technologies. She is an ABA Legal Rebel, and is listed on the Fastcase 50 and ABA LTRC Women in Legal Tech.