Who’s Afraid of ChatGPT? An Examination of ChatGPT’s Implications for Legal Writing
6 Pages Posted: 26 Jan 2023
Date Written: January 23, 2023
Law school legal writing courses teach students a variety of skills, including legal research, analysis, writing, and citation. These courses also often include discussion about professional responsibility in the practice of law. On November 30, 2022, OpenAI launched ChatGPT (Chat Generative Pre-trained Transformer). ChatGPT is an Artificial Intelligence interface that can generate human-like text in response to user queries. This Article explores ChatGPT’s implications for legal writing.
One long, thrilling afternoon, this author asked ChatGPT to perform a series of common legal research and writing tasks. Responses to some tasks were fairly impressive, while others completely missed the mark. This Article charts the hazards and opportunities of ChatGPT by focusing on what it “knows” about the law and its limitations—not only its inability to conduct effective legal research, but also its capacity for confidently producing responses that cite incorrect (often made-up) case law and statutes. Additionally, this Article tests ChatGPT’s writing ability: Can ChatGPT write in the formal legal writing structure that is taught in law schools (i.e., CREAC, IRAC, TRAC, etc.?) The Article shares insights from testing ChatGPT through “conversation” and analyzing its responses—both for accuracy and big picture takeaways about its current (in)abilities.
In addition to studying ChatGPT’s legal research and writing abilities, this Article also highlights some of the ethical hazards of relying on ChatGPT in practice. For instance, its potential for inaccuracy (and its actual, false answers) raises concerns about Model Rules of Professional Conduct 1.1, 1.3, 2.1, 3.3, and 4.1. Furthermore, depending on how ChatGPT is leveraged by attorneys, its use could violate the duty to protect client confidentiality (Rule 1.6).
More than just a cautionary tale, this Article also provides insight about how legal writing professors and law students might (effectively and ethically) use ChatGPT as a tool for certain tasks. For example, in the author’s experience, ChatGPT was able to identify logical flaws in contract clauses and could be a promising learning tool when teaching contract analysis. It also was able to create prompts and fact patterns for legal writing assignments, among exciting other uses.
This Article is a snapshot in time and a springboard for additional research about artificial intelligence’s (ever-evolving) implications for legal writing.
Keywords: ChatGPT, artificial intelligence, law, lawyer, legal writing, legal research, ethics, attorney ethics
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