Article: The Implications of ChatGPT for Legal Services and Society

Here’s the introduction to the piece

On November 30, 2022, OpenAI released a chatbot called ChatGPT. To demonstrate the chatbot’s remarkable sophistication and potential implications, for both legal services and society more generally, most of this paper was generated in about an hour through prompts within ChatGPT. Only this abstract, the preface, the outline headers, the epilogue, and the prompts were written by a person. ChatGPT generated the rest of the text with no human editing.

To be clear, the responses generated by ChatGPT were imperfect and at times problematic, and the use of an AI tool for law-related services raises a host of regulatory and ethical issues. At the same time, ChatGPT highlights the promise of artificial intelligence, including its ability to affect our lives in both modest and more profound ways. ChatGPT suggests an imminent reimagination of how we access and create information, obtain legal and other services, and prepare people for their careers. We also will soon face new questions about the role of knowledge workers in society, the attribution of work (e.g., determining when people’s written work is their own), and the potential misuse of and excessive reliance on the information produced by these kinds of tools.

The disruptions from AI’s rapid development are no longer in the distant future. They have arrived, and this document offers a small taste of what lies ahead.

The following can also be found on Andrew Perlman’s SSRN page as a PDF.


Preface

Legal futurists have long anticipated technology’s transformation of the legal industry, though the impact to date can best be described as evolutionary rather than revolutionary. The release of ChatGPT by OpenAI on November 30, 2022, may herald the beginning of the revolution.

At various times in the last 30 years, we have experienced aha moments that have opened our eyes to technology’s ability to fundamentally change how we access and generate information. The internet marked one of those moments, helping us to imagine how easy it would soon be to find information and share it with the world. Google’s search engine offered another inflection point, revealing a markedly new and improved method for finding what we needed on the emerging internet and prompting innovative approaches to using and navigating the online world. The iPhone’s launch sparked our imaginations yet again, showing us what we could do with a small device in our pockets and unleashing new apps and tools that have impacted our lives in innumerable ways (for both good and ill).

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.

For the legal industry, ChatGPT may portend an even more momentous shift than the advent of the internet. A significant part of lawyers’ work takes the form of written words—in emails, memos, motions, briefs, complaints, discovery requests and responses, transactional documents of all kinds, and so forth. Although existing technology has made the generation of these words easier in some respects, such as by allowing us to use templates and automated document assembly tools, these tools have changed most lawyers’ work in relatively modest ways. In contrast, AI tools like ChatGPT hold the promise of altering how we generate a much wider range of legal documents and information. In fact, within a few months of ChatGPT’s release, law firms and legal tech companies are already announcing new ways of using generative AI tools.

To demonstrate the potential implications of AI, for both legal services and society, I drafted most of the rest of this paper on December 5, 2022 in about an hour through prompts within ChatGPT. I wrote only the abstract, this preface, the outline headers, the epilogue, and the prompts. With one exception noted below (which involves Bing Chat), ChatGPT generated the rest of the text with no human editing.

For the legal industry, ChatGPT may portend an even more momentous shift than the advent of the internet.

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The Implications of ChatGPT for Legal Services and Society