How ChatGPT will affect the law

The artificial intelligence tool will be helpful for lawyers, but exactly how is still uncertain

How ChatGPT will affect the law
Monica Goyal

In November 2022, OpenAI launched ChatGPT, an artificial intelligence (AI) tool that provides a conversational interface that allows users to ask questions in natural language. The system responds with an answer within seconds. The tool’s accuracy is astonishing and has garnered a lot of interest.

Since its launch, lawyers and non-lawyers have asked the software many law questions and shared the results on social media. One lawyer asked ChatGPT to write a motion for summary judgment based on an episode of Friends and claimed the answer was on par. The consensus among most is that ChatGPT is impressive. But what does this mean for the practice of law?

To understand ChatGPT, you need to understand OpenAI, the company that created it. OpenAI is an AI research laboratory founded in late 2015 to make AI accessible to everyone, not just large, private technology corporations. Since OpenAI began, they have developed several generative language processing AI models, starting with GPT and now onto GPT-3.5, which was used in ChatGPT. Generative AI can generate novel content rather than simply analyzing or acting on existing data. Anyone can apply to access to GPT-3.5 to develop software applications on the platform.

I experimented with ChatGPT to see what I would get if I used the prompt, “draft a cease and desist letter demanding that John Smith cease using the song Freefall, from the album 1234 performed by Jane Doe in their hateful political video.” The resulting output warned me to consult with a lawyer, and then provided this as the output:

“Dear Mr. Smith,

I am writing to demand that you immediately cease and desist from using ‘Freefall’ from the album 1234, performed by Jane Doe, in your political video. The unauthorized use of the copyrighted song in your video constitutes copyright infringement and is illegal under the Copyright Act.

You do not have the legal right to use the copyrighted work of Jane Doe in your political video. Your unauthorized use of the song in your video violates her exclusive rights as granted by the copyright laws.

We demand that you take down the video containing the song ‘Freefall’ immediately and refrain from any further use of the song in any other videos or media. We are also asking you to refrain from any further hate speech in your videos.…”

I am sure we, as lawyers, will look at this and note deficiencies or issues, but remember that the tool created this unique text within seconds of receiving a prompt. I then wanted to see what a cease-and-desist letter would look like in another style of English and asked the software to draft a cease-and-desist letter in Shakespearean language. Below is a snippet of the response:

“To John Smith,

Hark! Cease thy heinous acts, lest thou be brought to court. Thy usage of ‘Freefall’ from the album 1234, performed by Jane Doe is a breach of copyright, and doth infringe her rights. We implore thee, desist from this behavior forthwith.

Thy video, steeped in hate and malice, is a blight upon the ears…”

If the ChatGPT system output doesn’t meet your requirements, you can easily type in a new question and get a different result. For example, with one of my firm’s law clerks, we tried to see how an AI system would do in drafting a resolution for the transfer of shares on a tax-deferred basis. The initial result was not correct. As we clarified our questions with additional details, the response improved.

Each release of GPT has seen a marked progression in the quality of the output result, and the upcoming GPT-4 will have the latest and best improvements. Companies that focus on training the tool with just legal context will have a better output – I’ve seen several companies doing this, and their legal technologies are incredible.

For example, at Caravel Law, we have been experimenting with several AI tools, including Spellbook by Rally Legal, built on OpenAI technologies. Among its features, the software provides the ability to read a contract and draft an email to the client to explain the contract’s contents. We could use this as a first draft explanation to the client.

Another AI tool, Harvey, also built using OpenAI technologies, has a very similar interface to ChatGPT, but the accuracy and quality output results are significantly better. Harvey describes itself as a legal assistant, and in some ways, it is. You can use the software to, as an example, draft a legal letter, draft a motion for summary judgment, and prepare research briefs.

With all this legal knowledge and the ability to draft legal documents quickly, many lawyers are asking what this technology means for them. For example, DoNotPay, a legal services chatbot, has offered to pay any lawyer or person 1 million dollars with an upcoming case in front of the US Supreme Court if they will wear AirPods and let their robot lawyer argue the case by exactly repeating what the robot says. Also, two legal scholars, Daniel Katz and Michael Bommarito have been experimenting with GPT-3.5 to see whether it could pass the US bar exam. In the LawNext podcast with Bob Ambrogi, Katz and Bommarito say that the GPT-3.5 model was able to pass the evidence and torts portion of the exam and opine that GPT-4 may be able to pass the complete bar exam.

With these current and future AI tools at our disposal, we are on the cusp of something new for the legal profession. But what that is, has yet to reveal itself. Soon, I suspect that all lawyers will consider ChatGPT technologies as important to their work as MS Word, practice management software, or research software. Lawyers who can embrace these technologies will realize the benefits over others that will not.

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