On November 30, 2022, OpenAI released an artificial intelligence chatbot called ChatGPT, which quickly sparked controversy throughout the legal industry concerning its capabilities in the legal arena. Some panicked that ChatGPT may eventually replace the need for lawyers by gradually learning to draft briefs, conduct depositions and even present arguments in court. Others saw ChatGPT as a powerful tool that could assist lawyers and legal professionals as a “jumping off point” with their everyday legal work.

Dean and professor of law at Suffolk University Law School, Andrew Perlman, emphasized the implications of ChatGPT for legal services, explaining that “The release of ChatGPT is the next such moment. It has shown us the powerful capabilities of so-called generative AI, which can absorb an enormous amount of information and then create new, original content after receiving a prompt from a user. We can envision generating original content for our personal and professional use with simple prompts to a chatbot. In moments, we can now draft sophisticated emails, term papers, reports, business plans, poems, jokes, and even computer code” (Perlman, Andrew, The Implications of Chat GPT for Legal Services and Society (December 5, 2022). See http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4294197 for more information.

But while ChatGPT appears promising to some, lingering doubt remains due to its many pitfalls that have surfaced while attempting to conduct legal work. With a hearing set for this week, two New York attorneys are facing sanctions for employing ChatGPT to a draft a legal brief that included numerous citations to legal authority that did not exist, with ChatGPT going as far as to create fictitious names and citations to legal reporters and generating favorable language from holdings thereof that simply did not exist. After the brief was submitted, the court’s clerks were unable to identify the legal authority cited and scheduled a sanctions hearing where the accused attorney testified that the program now “has revealed itself to be unreliable.” See https://lawandcrime.com/lawsuit/lawyer-was-unaware-chatgpt-could-generate-fake-legal-research-now-faces-sanctions/

            Overall, with ChatGPT being in its early stages, the main pitfalls discovered within the legal industry appear to stem from its inability to discern fact from fiction in searching trillions of datapoints online to answer the question presented all the while determined to prioritize providing its user with an answer over finding the right answer. Thus, while ChatGPT and other chatbots have the potential to operate as an invaluable tool in the legal industry for research and discovery, their current abilities are limited and are unable to substitute human attorney work product. In turn, the point of singularity appears to be far ahead, if it is ever reached at all.

For additional questions, please contact Regan Curran, Esq., Glen Shikunov, Esq. and/or Scott Tredwell, Esq.

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