Legal Technology

Some attorneys are using ChatGPT to help them practice more efficiently

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Your life is about to get so much easier.

Attorneys across the globe are tapping into a not-so-secret resource that is saving them time, money and brain expenditure. They’re using generative artificial intelligence—specifically, large language models such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT—to perform a range of tasks, including drafting their contracts, structuring their motions, writing their blogs and researching their cases. It’s a totally free legal resource—and when used correctly, it can shave hours off your workday.

“It’s obvious that ChatGPT is revolutionizing the legal industry,” says Michael Callahan, an attorney and CEO with the Callahan Law Firm in Houston. “ChatGPT frees up attorneys to concentrate on the strategic and creative aspects of their work by expediting document analysis, contract drafting, summary and language improvement. This use of AI technology improves productivity, efficiency and the provision of top-notch legal services to customers.”

Obviously, lawyers must keep in mind that large language models, of which ChatGPT is the most well-known and widely used, are not perfect and have been known to produce inaccurate information.

For instance, in June, two lawyers and their firm were fined $5,000 by U.S. District Judge P. Kevin Castel of the Southern District of New York for submitting a legal brief that cited six cases made up by ChatGPT out of thin air. That same month, OpenAI was sued for defamation in Gwinnett County Superior Court in Georgia after a radio host in the state claimed ChatGPT made up facts about him in a fraud and embezzlement case he was not a party to.

Nevertheless, it can be an effective tool at helping lawyers be more productive. Here are some things that ChatGPT does for attorneys to make their work life smoother:

It generates website content. Will Smith, a nursing home abuse attorney with the Law Office of Will Smith in Atlanta, often asks AI to generate content for his law firm’s website and to create 30-second video scripts on various nursing home abuse topics. He requests that AI optimize his search engine optimization to help focus on keywords and ideas. Smith says he’s still responsible for everything he writes, so he reviews ChatGPT’s suggestions and changes the words to fit his style. “However, when you have a mental block, GPT can help get your ideas flowing again,” he says.

Allison Harrison, an attorney with ALH Law Group in Columbus, Ohio, uses ChatGPT to create ideas for her firm’s blog, asking AI what people tend to search for and requesting first-round drafts. While the drafts aren’t perfect, they are good enough to cut down on production time, Harrison says. “They are allowing our firm to generate a lot more educational content for marketing purposes than ever before,” she says.

It breaks down legal jargon and complicated issues for the jury. Sure, you could do this yourself, but it only takes ChatGPT a few seconds to do it for you. For example, if Smith has a bedsore case and wants to explain to the jury how painful it is, he asks ChatGPT to explain it in terms that everyone can understand. The result: “Just as a leaky roof can lead to damage inside the house, a bedsore can cause damage to the underlying tissues. It can be excruciatingly painful because the exposed tissues are sensitive and vulnerable. Imagine the pain you could feel if a wound on your skin remained open and exposed to touch, pressure or even the slightest movement.”

It researches for you. Andrew Legrand, a business attorney with Spera Law Group in New Orleans, previously used LexisNexis for most of his research. Recently, he was trying to recall the legal source for an obscure concept that’s unique to Louisiana law. He asked ChatGPT for legal support for the concept, and a few seconds later, AI provided him with the exact code article he was trying to remember.

It rewrites your letters. Legrand wrote a letter and needed it to be a little more snarky to fit his clients’ style. He put the letter into ChatGPT and requested that the substance of the letter be maintained but the tone changed to be snarkier—but still professional. It worked.

“I then took it out of ChatGPT, had to edit it one or two more times, and then sent it over to the client, who said they loved it,” Legrand says.

It structures a deposition. From a legal perspective, there are many ways someone can state facts—and a misstep or incorrect pattern of statements can hurt the credibility or derail the testimony of a witness. It is important that facts are in the proper sequence so that they build on one another and form a cohesive narrative, says Michael McCready, the founder and managing partner at McCready Law Injury Attorneys in Chicago. McCready lists the facts in ChatGPT and asks for suggestions on different ways to structure them. He then relays the information to his clients to help detail the importance of their words in a particular case.

“ChatGPT has improved our firm’s ability to describe the different ways of explaining the same facts and optimized the testimony structure that can best represent our clients,” McCready says.

It proofreads. ChatGPT improves the wording and organization of pleadings and motions, raising their general caliber. It also serves as a virtual proofreader, recommending language improvements, sentence structure refinements and readability enhancements to ensure the written work is clear and convincing, Callahan says.

It sifts through documents and drafts contracts. Steve Sacona, an Australia-based legal writer at lawyer comparison site Top 10 Lawyers, uses AI to identify relevant documents for a case, sorting through large volumes of information. Drafting contracts is also a task he assigns to ChatGPT. “By providing the necessary details and desired terms, it is adept at summarizing lengthy legal documents such as court opinions, expert reports or legal briefs,” Sacona says. ChatGPT extracts essential points, identifies relevant precedents and distills complex information into concise and understandable summaries. And when he needs to draft pleadings, motions and other legal documents, ChatGPT offers assistance in refining language and improving overall structure by suggesting alternative phrasing, providing examples of persuasive arguments and ensuring the document adheres to legal conventions and requirements. n

This story was originally published in the October-November 2023 issue of the ABA Journal under the headline: “Office Aide: Some attorneys are using ChatGPT to help them practice more efficiently.”

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