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 Artificial Intelligence  Legal Tech

What is ChatGPT’s real practical scope in Law?

NeoSmart,  February 28, 2024

In the world of law, where words and time are critical and valuable, the advent of artificial intelligence tools such as ChatGPT marks the beginning of a new era that could revolutionise standard practices. GPT-4, the most advanced version of OpenAI’s language models, has proven its competence in the legal field by scoring 298 out of 400 points on the prestigious US bar exam "The Bar Exam", ranking in the 90th percentile. But what does this mean for legal professionals - is AI just a buzzword or can it really make everyday work easier? What is the real practical scope of ChatGPT in the legal field?

ChatGPT excels in natural language understanding, interpreting complex situations even with vague descriptions or typos. It allows users to state their legal issues and correct, redirect or expand on information during the interaction. This continuous dialogue capability provides minimal learning costs and is comparable to a conversation with a fellow lawyer. Despite not being specifically trained in legal data, ChatGPT exhibits remarkable legal reasoning driven by its inherent common sense that can be enhanced by specialised legal knowledge.

However, ChatGPT should not be considered a substitute for authentic legal expertise. Compared to specialised legal tools, ChatGPT still lacks precision and completeness. Its occasional tendency to generate "hallucinations" or incorrect data in the legal domain highlights the need to critically review its answers. Its use is recommended as a support tool, not as a sole source of information. The GPT-4 version seeks to reduce these errors, but absolute accuracy is not guaranteed, maintaining the relevance of experience and professional judgement. To reduce hallucinations, the use of legal-specific prompting techniques is suggested, as well as chain-of-thought prompting that requires a step-by-step detailing of the tool’s reasoning process.

To a large extent, the effectiveness of ChatGPT depends on the accuracy of the instructions provided. Just as you guide an intern as soon as he or she enters a company, providing detailed instructions, explaining the success criteria and guiding him or her towards the desired outcome, it is crucial to be clear and explicit with AI tools. This is the way to make the most of their capabilities and achieve more successful results.

In practice, by feeding it well-developed prompts, ChatGPT has demonstrated its proficiency in drafting varied legal documents, such as contracts, demand letters, pleadings, summary judgment motions, etc., applying established legal reasoning methods. A detailed study tested ChatGPT in drafting these legal documents and conducting research, using the Donoghue v Stevenson (1932) case as a reference. The AI tool was able to efficiently and accurately draft the legal documents it was asked to draft, applying case law reasoning to the facts of the case and following the IRAC approach, all in a matter of seconds.

 Beyond drafting, ChatGPT has been helpful in identifying legal strategies and preparing for cross-examination. In one case study, it identified key roles and formulated relevant questions, adapting to the answers for intelligent follow-ups.

In addition, ChatGPT is effective in reviewing human-produced legal documents, identifying errors or discrepancies and suggesting improvements. Also, its ability to generate varied responses to the same question provides unique drafts, optimising drafting time and allowing lawyers to focus on more substantive aspects of their cases and communication with clients.

Given the tool’s simplicity of use, it is easy to visualise ChatGPT as an effective partner in automating routine legal tasks. It does not seek to replace your expertise, but rather to complement it, freeing up time for you to focus on deeper analysis and complex strategies. In an environment where technology drives the routine, lawyers’ analytical skills and critical judgement become more important, as well as empathy and interpersonal skills in an increasingly technological world.

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