With all of the recent media buzz surrounding ChatGPT, you may wonder how it will impact legal practice. ChatGPT is “conversational” artificial intelligence (AI) created by OpenAI, a nonprofit funded by the likes of Microsoft, Infosys, and others. It is described as a “chatbot” that is “optimized for dialogue.” At its core, it allows users to ask almost any question, with the bot replying in a conversational manner based on input from the user. This simple description, however, hides the complex algorithms and massive computing power required to make the tool work as well as it does. The internet is replete with articles addressing questions of whether, or how, ChatGPT will someday be able to replace humans in a number of industries. Students are already using ChatGPT to assist with research and homework. Even attorneys may be using ChatGPT for legal research. Beyond the functionality that is publicly available, ChatGPT also has certain advanced features, including analysis, learning, and enhancement of its responses based on documents that can be fed into it via its still-evolving application programming interface (API).
A look at e-discovery technology reveals a variety of interesting tools, including AI-powered engines that can assist in identifying key documents, culling irrelevant data, and even performing high quality privilege analysis. However, so far these tools have only had a limited impact in terms of replacing lawyers. Even the most powerful tools still require significant human calibration, and those utilizing the tools require substantial technological training to ensure that they are being used in an effective and defensible way. Will ChatGPT and its successors be able to further replace the human element?
In a January 25 Legaltech News article entitled “What Will Ediscovery Lawyers Do After ChatGPT?”, John Tredennick and Dr. William Webber take us on a fun exploration of how ChatGPT handles discovery tasks today, and how we may see it working in the future. I commend this article to you for its excellent writing and details. The bottom line is that ChatGPT answers many questions surprisingly well but is not yet ready to replace lawyers in making relevancy and privilege determinations—at least not without further training and human lawyer guidance.
Will ChatGPT replace attorneys in the courtroom? Certainly not any time soon. In addition to technological limitations, there are many ethical and procedural hurdles that make it all but impossible to allow a machine to replace an attorney in court. Just last week, Joshua Browder, the CEO and creator of DoNotPay and “the world’s first robot lawyer,” announced that his company has discontinued its “non-consumer legal rights products.” Mr. Browder had planned on having his ChatGPT-powered “Robot Lawyer” argue a traffic ticket in court. While this generated a significant amount of buzz in the industry, the plan was ultimately scrapped. Mr. Browder tweeted that state bar prosecutors “will put me in jail for 6 months if I follow through with bringing a robot lawyer into a physical courtroom.” So, while it is unlikely we will see a “robot lawyer” trying cases in court, could technology like ChatGPT be utilized as a tool to assist attorneys in the practice of law? Most certainly yes, and that may come sooner than many imagine!