The Case for ChatGPT: Why lawyers should embrace AI
Artificial intelligence has the potential to change the world in which we work and live. If you’ve been paying attention, you know that AI-related transformation is already happening, and the legal industry is not immune.
As I’ve discussed in past columns, there are already many AI-powered technologies available to legal professionals that streamline workflows and automate tedious tasks, saving both time and money. A newer one that should absolutely be on the radar of every lawyer is ChatGPT.
What is ChatGPT?
In recent months, there has been a leap forward in the AI realm, and a new tool, ChatGPT, has taken the technology world by storm. ChatGPT is a conversational AI model developed by OpenAI that generates humanlike responses to natural language inputs. The program, which utilizes OpenAI’s GPT-3.5 platform, was released in November 2022, and its advanced natural language processing capabilities are already impacting the way we interact with technology and each other.
How can ChatGPT help legal professionals?
As it exists today, ChatGPT as a stand-alone tool offers value to lawyers. When it is integrated into legal technology products, is even more promising. Over time, as new and improved versions are released, it will undoubtedly change the way that legal work gets done in a variety of contexts.
For example, the current release of ChatGPT can assist with contract drafting and review by suggesting contract language or identifying potential issues found in a contract. Additionally, ChatGPT can be leveraged during legal research to provide summaries of cases, laws or even pleadings filed with the court. Other use cases include creating workable first drafts of demand letters, discovery demands, nondisclosure agreements and employment agreements. It can also be used to suggest language for use in correspondence and legal documents.
I’ve tested out many of the above scenarios, and the results provided by ChatGPT were a great start. That being said, the output provided was at best a rough draft that would require many edits. But even with that caveat, the time saved was significant.
All in all, it’s an impressive tool, and recent experiments have shown just how advanced it is. For example, ChatGPT recently passed: 1) a Wharton MBA exam, 2) a U.S. medical licensing exam, 3) a microbiology quiz and 4) several law school exams. It also successfully passed a Google coding interview for a Level 3 engineer with a $183,000 salary.
Should legal professionals use it?
In many respects, however, this technology is still in its infancy. Results obtained from ChatGPT are often riddled with errors and, in some cases, outright falsehoods.
For example, when I asked it to draft a LinkedIn post about an article in which I was quoted, it created a quote out of thin air. Similar errors have been found in results obtained from some legal software tools that utilize ChatGPT in their platforms. In one instance, it referenced a nonexistent California ethics provision.
Despite its current shortcomings, ChatGPT has the potential to significantly enhance efficiency in the delivery of legal services and reduce common frictions encountered in the practice of law. It can be a tremendous time-saver and is a great place to start your research on just about any topic. But whether you use ChatGPT for personal or professional reasons, you’ll need to have a full understanding of the issue at hand and should thoroughly review, edit and supplement any results or draft language it provides you.
Image from Shutterstock.
How do you access it?
You have a number of options if you’re interested in using ChatGPT as part of your day-to-day work.
First, it’s available as a stand-alone chat interface. There is a free version that you can experiment with, but if you plan to use it often (which I suspect you’ll find you will), then it will be worth your while to sign up for ChatGPT Plus, which costs $20 per month. It offers access to the faster Turbo version, ensures you always have access, and you will be first in line for new features as they’re rolled out.
Notably, a number of legal technology companies already have incorporated ChatGPT into their software, as I discuss below. You’ll find that legal software companies have taken a variety of approaches, many of which are quite innovative.
Which legal software tools leverage ChatGPT technology?
Since ChatGPT’s release, a number of different legal technology companies have announced that they’ve begun to utilize its technology in their software. The ways in which ChatGPT’s AI is being incorporated vary, but the benefit of using legal software with this functionality built-in is that it provides an added layer of scrutiny and reliability.
That being said, it’s important to ensure that you fully understand the capabilities—and limitations—of the results provided. You’ll need to fully vet those issues with the provider before using the technology in your firm and take care to disseminate your learnings with anyone in your firm who will be using the software.
Next, let’s take a look at some of the legal technology companies that have announced that this technology is available in their software, or will be in the near future:
• Ironclad offers a new tool called “AI Assist” in beta, which leverages ChatGPT technology to generate redlined versions of contracts using language obtained from preapproved clauses.
• DocketAlarm has an integration using ChatGPT’s AI that was announced at the end of January and allows users to hover their cursor over any docket sheet accessed through DocketAlarm and obtain a three-bullet-point summary of the document referenced.
• Lexion offers a Microsoft Word plug-in using ChatGPT technology that assists users in drafting, negotiating and summarizing contract terms; it can also create clause language, generate redlined documents and more.
• Alexsei: This legal research startup added ChatGPT technology to its product and it works in conjunction with domain-specific AI models to serve up better research results.
Also notable is that the global law firm Allen & Overy rolled out its Harvey chatbot to its firm of 3,500 attorneys in mid-February. This tool leverages ChatGPT technology and was initially tested on 2,000 attorneys starting in November 2022. More than 40,000 queries have been run by its attorneys since that time. Its lawyers use Harvey to create legal documents, conduct legal research, generate insights and predictions across practice areas, and much more.
The bottom line: the possibilities for the use of this technology in the legal industry are endless. In the future, as more legal technology companies increasingly utilize ChatGPT and similar AI tools in their platforms, this technology will offer immeasurable benefits and time-saving potential for legal professionals.
Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York-based attorney, author and journalist, and she is senior director of subject matter expertise and external education at MyCase, a company that offers legal practice management software for small firms. She is the nationally recognized author of Cloud Computing for Lawyers and is co-author of Social Media for Lawyers: The Next Frontier, both published by the American Bar Association. She also is co-author of Criminal Law in New York, a Thomson Reuters treatise. She writes regular columns for ABAJournal.com and Above the Law; has authored hundreds of articles for other publications; and regularly speaks at conferences regarding the intersection of law and emerging technologies. Follow her on Twitter @nikiblack, or she can be reached at [email protected].
This column reflects the opinions of the author and not necessarily the views of the ABA Journal—or the American Bar Association.