Lawyers Weekly Australia Article – Being open to ChatGPT is ‘the most important tool in a young lawyer’s arsenal’

With the changing landscape of legal and AI tech comes evolving skill sets, something which young lawyers, in particular, need to be aware of early on in their careers.

Artificial intelligence (AI) technologies have, so far this year, had a massive impact on the legal profession, as ChatGPT continues to make global headlines.

This has been seen in the recent uptake of ChatGPT in the Clayton Utz environmental, social, and governance (ESG) practice, as well as Allen & Overy recently partnering with a chatbot lawyer, “Harvey”. This extends past BigLaw, as numerous sole GCs have said that AI tech can help scale their workload and improve their day-to-day.

A noisy debate has subsequently emerged over ChatGPT and similar AI tech. On the one hand, platforms like ChatGPT are a “useful resource” for boutique firms and BigLaw firms alike and will require a focus on key skills and a rethink on legal education, even if the new tech can’t replace lawyers entirely (at least not yet).

However, there are certainly fears that AI’s rise could mean the beginning of the end of lawyers — even if it should be used cautiously in courts and demands new workplace policies, despite the fact that ChatGPT can be used to cheat on law school exams and is, in the eyes of some, “no different to Wikipedia”. Billable hours have also been revealed to be at further risk with the development of AI tech.

To read Lawyers Weekly’s full series of ChatGPT stories, click here.

New technologies and AI programs are increasingly and continually impacting the legal profession, forcing lawyers’ skill sets to evolve — something that Gilbert + Tobin partner and chief knowledge innovation officer Caryn Sandler said was particularly important for emerging lawyers.

“Innovation culture thrives when we remove the artificial divide between the practice of law and the business of law. If lawyers wish to be successful in their careers, they need to understand both aspects,” she told Lawyers Weekly.

“From the outset, our focus has been to educate and develop our lawyers as legal experts and impactful leaders who appreciate the importance of cultivating and overlaying an innovative mindset.”

To this end, emerging lawyers need to be more digitally literate and tech-savvy than ever before, Swinburne Law School LLB course director and senior lecturer Dr Mitchell Adams explained.

“The emerging lawyer of the future will be technology-enabled with digital literacy skills at their core. They will look like a highly skilled professional, both in traditional legal practice and technological practice. This will include a strong understanding of AI and its applications. Consumers of legal services will likely grow to expect this of their lawyers,” he said.

“[However], generative AI is still very early in its development. Younger lawyers should see beyond the gimmicks and have a go at playing around with these platforms. But more importantly, to know how they work and what it is currently being integrated into. Understanding how it could be used in the future will be essential.”

The impact of ChatGPT and other generative AI technologies on the legal profession is yet to be seen — but Baker McKenzie’s chair of the Australian offices and TMT partner, Adrian Lawrence, said that young lawyers need to remain adaptable moving forward.