Artificial intelligence has rapidly gained prominence in various industries, and the legal profession is no exception. As a new attorney, it’s only natural for us to wonder how AI — particularly AI language models like ChatGPT — may impact the legal profession, and whether we as new attorneys should be concerned about its implications.
ChatGPT, powered by cutting-edge AI technology, has the ability to generate human-like text and engage in conversations on a wide range of topics, even complex legal topics. (Don’t believe us? Try typing, “Explain the Rule Against Perpetuities to me like I’m a 6-year-old,” and then with a straight face tell us that wasn’t easier to understand than your bar review course.) While it can be a valuable tool in many contexts (studying for the bar, for one) it’s important to take a realistic look at its potential impact on the legal profession, particularly for those of us who are still early in our careers and working hard to gain critical expertise in our fields.
One area where AI can prove invaluable is in legal research — that is, the bread and butter of many new associate attorneys. ChatGPT and other AI tools can rapidly sift through vast amounts of legal information, helping attorneys identify relevant caselaw and legal precedents more efficiently. Those of us who regularly use Westlaw or similar tools are certainly already aware of this. The technology powering Westlaw currently uses AI and has for several years. AI makes the tools we rely on daily more effective and efficient — a win-win for us and our clients. By using AI as a research aid, new attorneys can bolster their arguments and provide stronger legal representation for their clients.
Another aspect where AI, including ChatGPT and Westlaw, has already made its mark is in automating routine yet critical tasks. AI-powered tools can handle tasks like document review and case cite checks faster and more efficiently than ever before. We are far beyond the simple tools of autocorrect and spell check. AI can cite check an entire brief in seconds. This automation can save considerable time and resources, allowing attorneys to focus on higher-value work that requires critical thinking, strategy development and client interaction.
However, it’s crucial to recognize that AI is not infallible. ChatGPT, like any other AI language model, relies on the data it is trained on. It lacks the nuanced understanding and legal judgment that human attorneys possess. It is not a substitute for the experience and expertise that attorneys bring to the table.
As a new attorney, consider the potential consequences of relying on AI language models like ChatGPT. While they can generate relevant legal information and offer insights, they very likely do not fully comprehend the contextual nuances, ethical considerations or evolving legal precedents that are crucial to providing comprehensive legal advice. Further, there are ethical concerns associated with the use of AI in the legal profession. Bias, fairness and privacy are key issues that need to be carefully addressed. AI models like ChatGPT are trained on vast amounts of data, which may inadvertently perpetuate biases present in the training data. It is essential for new attorneys to be vigilant about identifying and mitigating these biases to ensure fairness and equal treatment under the law.
To navigate the evolving AI landscape successfully, new attorneys must adapt and continuously educate themselves. While legal education may not currently include comprehensive AI training, it is vital to seek out relevant resources and professional development opportunities. By understanding the capabilities and limitations of AI, as well as its ethical considerations, new attorneys can make informed decisions about when and how to integrate AI into their legal practices.
After all, a tool is only as good as the hands that wield it, and AI is no exception. As you may imagine, ChatGPT gave us wildly different responses when we asked it the following questions: “Explain how ChatGPT will affect the legal profession”; “Will ChatGPT replace attorneys?”; and, “Explain how attorneys cannot be replaced by AI.”
Despite the growing advancements in AI technology, the legal profession remains indispensable and resilient, even for newer attorneys just starting out. AI is a tool that can enhance the legal profession rather than replace it. Rather than being concerned, new attorneys should focus on how they can harness the potential of AI to their advantage (while fully complying with firm policies and ethical rules). Success in the legal profession requires a blend of legal expertise, complex reasoning, emotional intelligence, ethical decision-making, adaptability, creativity and advocacy skills that go beyond the capabilities of AI. The future of the legal profession lies in the collaboration between attorneys and AI.
Would either of us ever use ChatGPT to draft a petition or court filing for a client? Absolutely not. But did we use ChatGPT to generate the first draft of this article? Yes we did, unashamedly. More than 80% of the sentences you just read to get to the end of this column were not written by either of us, but were, in fact, computer-generated. And you don’t need to have been on law review to have noticed that this article includes an AI-generated sentence that ends with a preposition.
But all in all, we can’t help but agree with ChatGPT in this: “The future is bright for new attorneys who are willing to embrace the power of AI. By harnessing its capabilities, automating routine tasks and leveraging its analytical prowess, new attorneys can elevate their legal practice to new heights. The power to thrive in this AI-driven era lies in the hands of those who are ready to seize the opportunities and navigate the evolving landscape of the legal profession.” We wish all attorneys, but particularly the new members of our profession, the absolute best of luck on the journey.
As an aside, we did ask ChatGPT whether it is considered plagiarism to publish an article written by ChatGPT under our own names. Here’s what it said: “Yes, it would be considered plagiarism to publish an article written by ChatGPT under your own name without giving proper attribution. As an AI language model, I generate content based on a combination of preexisting text and machine learning algorithms. However, the output is still authored by the AI model, and you must provide appropriate attribution to ChatGPT if you use the generated content in any published work.” With that being said, we’re looking forward to seeing how the next edition of Bluebook tackles that issue.•
Kelly M. Beyrer and Sloan F. Crawford are attorneys at Brown Glier Law in Indianapolis. Opinions expressed are those of the authors.