ChatGPT has caused quite a stir since it was launched in November 2022. Its AI technology allows you to have a conversation with a chatbot, which can perform a host of various functions including answering questions, composing emails, and even coding with minimal user input. While the extent of its implications on the legal field are unclear, they will no doubt be momentous.
Currently, however, there are many drawbacks to using this AI technology in the legal field. Disclaimers remind users of ChatGPT’s limitations, which include generating wrong information and limited knowledge of world events after 2021. These limitations impede proper legal analysis, advice, and work product. In addition to these general disclaimers, the chatbot often generates additional disclaimers when asked a specific question. For this article, I asked ChatGPT “Can I represent myself in a legal matter using ChatGPT?” Its eloquent response, detailed here, was telling:
“I am an AI language model, and while I can provide information and general guidance, I am not a substitute for professional legal advice. Representing yourself in a legal matter, also known as acting ‘pro se,’ is a decision that should be carefully considered.
Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Legal Knowledge: Legal matters can be complex, and understanding the relevant laws, regulations, and procedures can be challenging. While I can provide general information, I may not have access to the most up-to-date legal information, and laws can vary depending on your jurisdiction. It’s important to consult legal resources specific to your situation and seek professional advice when needed.
- Case-specific Information: Every legal matter is unique, and the advice and strategies that apply to one case may not be applicable to another. Legal professionals are trained to analyze the specific details of your case and provide advice based on their expertise and experience. They can evaluate your situation, consider potential legal arguments, and help you navigate the legal process effectively.
- Emotional Involvement: Legal matters can be emotionally charged, and representing yourself might make it difficult to remain objective. An attorney can offer an impartial perspective and provide guidance based on their legal expertise, which can be invaluable when making strategic decisions.
- Courtroom Procedures: If your legal matter involves court proceedings, there are specific rules, procedures, and protocols that must be followed. Navigating these procedures effectively often requires knowledge of legal research, evidence gathering, courtroom etiquette, and oral advocacy skills. An experienced attorney can help you understand and navigate these processes.
While it’s not impossible to represent yourself in a legal matter, it is generally recommended to seek the assistance of a qualified attorney who can provide you with personalized advice and guide you through the complexities of the legal system.” OpenAI. (2023). ChatGPT (July 20 version) [Large language model]. https://chat.openai.com/chat.
Though it may be tempting for lawyers and the public to use ChatGPT for legal matters, it is not a substitute for proper human training and analysis. However, if used properly, ChatGPT can be a powerful tool in aiding lawyers and the public. Specifically, it may help in legal research, as it can quickly review various legal texts including cases and laws to provide relevant information. However, it is imperative that ChatGPT’s work product is verified for accuracy as it currently only has knowledge through 2021; and it has been known to invent legal cases and facts.
ChatGPT may also be helpful with document review by quickly analyzing voluminous texts. It can also assist lawyers in generating initial drafts of various legal documents, which must then be analyzed for correctness. There are ethical implications that attorneys must consider when using ChatGPT for legal support. For clients, it can assist in answering basic legal questions, which can be cost-effective for clients and less time-consuming for attorneys. While these answers may not be precise, they can provide a basic framework whereby a non lawyer can grasp general legal concepts. Ultimately, with rapid advances in AI technology, ChatGPT will improve in dispensing legal advice, but it is doubtful that it will be able to replace lawyers—at least not in the near future.