Will ChatGPT replace lawyers in the future?

A. Vince Colella

ChatGPT is an AI-powered chatbot that is specifically designed for the legal industry. It is based on the GPT-3.5 architecture and has been tested on a vast amount of legal data. As a result, it can provide lawyers with an unprecedented level of assistance.

ChatGPT is designed to help lawyers with a wide range of tasks, from legal research and drafting documents to scheduling appointments and managing client relationships. It can understand natural language queries and provide intelligent responses, making it an incredibly valuable tool for lawyers. Selling points for the software include increased efficiency, improved accuracy, enhanced productivity, better client services and cost savings.

Although it may be impressive from a technical standpoint, the idea of relying on artificial intelligence to have real life conversations and generate responses raises serious questions. Pundits question whether ChatGPT is ready for primetime. Of primary concern, ChatGPT lacks the ability to understand the complexity of the human language and conversation. It is designed to generate words based upon a given input, similar to the Boolean search engines used to power legal searches in Lexis and Westlaw. Therefore, it does not truly engage in complex "thinking." Notably, ChatGBT is notorious for "making up" facts and passing them off as truth. One study provides examples of the chatbot spewing unattributable quotes and citation to legal precedence that does not exist due to the prevalence of misinformation on the web.

Notwithstanding its flaws, the chatbot is forging ahead in the legal industry. Legal technology companies are incorporating ChatGPT into their platforms and being adopted by the law firms they serve. Despite the glaring deficiencies in accuracy, lawyers are flocking to artificial intelligence to keep up with the fast pace of the business. Over the last 10 years, law has moved from a snail's pace to light speed. And Chat GPT is being embraced as a valuable tool to keep up with the demands of legal research, writing and marketing.

However, like all technological advances, the law has been slow to keep up with the advancement of artificial intelligence, especially the ethical ramifications. Lawyers would be wise to understand the ethics of utilizing ChatGPT before going all in on the technology. Under our own rules, lawyers are required to provide "competent" representation of a client. Lawyers are not permitted to accept a lega

l matter for which they are not qualified to handle. Thus, while AI may serve as an effective tool to become confident in a field of law outside one's own expertise, a lawyer should not rely solely on the information provided by ChatGPT given the current flaws and inaccurate information that experts have found to occur rather frequently with AI "intelligence."

Moreover, because ChatGPT is regularly monitored by its research and development teams commonly referred to as "trainers," confidential communications between a lawyer and client using the chat function may not be secure. The ethical importance of maintaining client confidentiality in accordance with Michigan ethics rules should always be a consideration when implementing ChatGPT into client communications. To adequately protect attorney-client confidential communications, experts recommend that the law firm and its developer (OpenAI) enter into a formal confidentiality agreement where there is a possibility that trainers will be engaged in reviewing chats for the efficacy and accuracy of the information being shared. Additionally, lawyers must always be mindful of the possibility of a data breach whereby a user's identification could be matched to an utterance tied to a particular lawyer and firm. Or that certain confidential language in one document is captured and automatically included in another, triggering a violation.

Some skeptics feel that the adoption of artificial intelligence threatens the legal profession as a whole. That as time goes on, ChatGPT could supplant the need to hire an attorney. However, artificial intelligence - while a useful tool - certainly would not circumvent the role of a lawyer. While proponents of ChatGPT espouse the "learning" capability of the system, artificial intelligence is just that artificial. Sure, the system can extrapolate information from thousands of online legal research libraries and sources, but it is not capable of conjuring theories of liability, challenging the status quo or interpreting case law and statutes in a novel or revolutionary way. The true genius of lawyering lies in the ability to thoughtfully analyze existing statutes and case law and apply it to unique facts and circumstances. If the practice of law were simply to regurgitate the long-standing rule of law, we would see little advancement in the law. Imagine if the legal pioneers of the civil rights movement simply accepted the old rules and refused to challenge antiquated decisions; the notions of equal protection under the law would have remained stagnant, stifling minority opportunity and inclusion.

Lawyers should not fear technology; rather, use it wisely.


A. Vince Colella is a co-founder of personal injury and civil rights law firm Moss & Colella.