This article discusses whether ChatGPT can replace lawyers.
The impact of technology is evident in all sectors of the economy including the legal profession which is considered to be the most conservative and resistant to change, largely due to its high reliance on precedents. These technologies and the functions or roles they play continue to evolve in ways that have sparked discussions about the potential to replace lawyers in the legal profession. ChatGPT is one such technology.
What is ChatGPT?
ChatGPT is an Artificial Intelligence that is trained to assist humans with different tasks through the use of its chatbot. It is a language model that enables users to interact with a computer program in a conversational way. ChatGPT is a sophisticated chatbot capable of understanding and interpreting user requests, generating appropriate responses in nearly natural human language, and completing advanced tasks such as writing thank you letters and addressing productivity issues.1
In order to use ChatGPT, a user inputs a prompt in the form of a question or statement into the chatbot. The model then generates a response to the question asked. ChatGPT is able to generate appropriate or human-like responses that are coherent with the question asked as a result of its training with large amount of data.
Benefits of ChatGPT as a Legal Tool
There are numerous benefits that this artificial intelligence chatbot provides a lawyer. Some of them are discussed below.
- Technological Support Tool – ChatGPT functions as a tool that can assist lawyers in the performance of various tasks such as:
- Legal Research: As a result of being trained with large amount of data, ChatGPT can quickly search through its large data and retrieve relevant information from legal databases, case law, and statutes that are relevant to the research being carried out.
- Document Generation: Lawyers are usually tasked with drafting various legal documents such as contracts, motions, and pleadings which is usually time consuming. To use ChatGPT in achieving this benefit, a lawyer, for example, who needs to create a contract agreement for his client who is employing a new staff, will input special clauses or specific information in the chatbot and ask it to generate the document.
- Document Review: Document review is an important but time-consuming aspect of litigation. ChatGPT can assist lawyers in the review of large volumes of documents by analysing the language used in order to identify relevant content.
- Speed and Efficiency – The use of ChatGPT to generate responses to simple legal questions, quickly generate legal documents as well as access relevant legal information from case law and statutes saves considerable amount of time that would have been spent in performing these tasks. The efficiency of ChatGPT in processing vast amount of data faster and more accurately than humans could reduce the workload of lawyers and create more time for more complex tasks.
- Cost Reduction – The use of ChatGPT to handle tasks such as drafting, due diligence and reviewing of contracts will reduce the need for human lawyers. Such reduction will in turn reduce costs incurred by law firms.
Limitations of ChatGPT as a Legal Tool
Although there are a number of great benefits from the use of ChatGPT, its drawbacks raise concerns and should not be ignored. Some limitations of ChatGPT are:
- Inability to Represent Clients – Providing legal advice to a client is just as important as representing the client in court in order to defend and protect his right. One of the roles of lawyers in performing their duty is to represent clients in the courtroom. ChatGPT lacks the ability to represent clients in the courtroom.
- Lack of Human Emotion and Judgment – Lawyers work with clients from different backgrounds and with different personalities. To build professional relationships with clients, lawyers must possess good interpersonal skills which in turn will lead to building trust. ChatGPT lacks the emotional intelligence to achieve this.
- Limited Legal Knowledge – ChatGPT may not always provide the most up-to-date or relevant legal information because it can only provide or generate responses from the data on which it was trained. In instances where the information it has on a particular legal topic is limited, the response generated may be comprehensible but incomplete. Using incomplete information to provide legal advice to a client can lead to errors which have significant consequences
Can ChatGPT Replace Lawyers?
There are a lot of concerns regarding the possibility of ChatGPT replacing lawyers. While it is true and evident that a lot of tasks have become computerised with the improvement of technology. It is highly in doubt whether ChatGPT can truly replace human lawyers. Some reasons why ChatGPT cannot replace human lawyers will be discussed below.
Firstly, ChatGPT can be used to provide useful legal information. However, it is not a licensed legal professional and its responses should not be taken as legal advice. This is because only a licensed legal professional can provide legal advice as he will be liable for the advice he provides in his professional capacity. ChatGPT’s data is limited and cannot be substituted completely for the expertise and judgement provided by licensed legal professionals.
Secondly, Lawyers have a deep understanding of legal procedures, laws, and regulations. As a result, they are able to think critically and creatively. Although, ChatGPT is useful in performing a great number of legal tasks like document generation, document review etc,the legal profession involves more than generating data. Part of a lawyer’s work involves analysing a wide range of legal data and applying their understanding of the law to provide relevant solutions for each client. ChatGPT lacks this critical, analytical and evaluative skill.
Thirdly, ChatGPT lacks some lawyering skills that cannot be dispensed with. The law is not just a set of rules and regulations, neither is it just about providing legal information and insight. Lawyers also get involved in advocacy and negotiation on behalf of clients in order to meet clients objectives. ChatGPT is not able to advocate for a client or get involved in negotiation or mediation where legal disputes are to be settled out of court.
It is not in doubt that ChatGPT serves as a very powerful technological tool that can be used to assist lawyers in their professional capacity as it can enhance and streamline legal tasks. However, its ability to function solely in the place of a human lawyer is limited as lawyers have many unique setskills that cannot be replaced by artificial intelligence. Rather ChatGPT should be used as a legal support tool together with the guidance of licensed legal professionals. Finally, ChatGPT has a significant number of challenges and ethical concerns that should not be overlooked.
1 Brandy Laund, “A Brief Review of ChatGPT: Its Value and Underlying GPT Technology” (2023) https://www.researchgate.net/publication/366809571_A_Brief_Review_of_ChatGPT_Its_Value_and_the_Underlying_GPT_Technology accessed 8 May 2023