Monday, May 29, 2023

Here’s What Happens When Your Lawyer Uses ChatGPT - A cautionary story

From the New York Times - https://www.nytimes.com/2023/05/27/nyregion/avianca-airline-lawsuit-chatgpt.html

This incident illustrates AI's potential and limitations in the legal field. While AI technologies like ChatGPT can be powerful tools for aiding in legal research or drafting tasks, it's crucial to remember that they are not infallible and must be used responsibly.

ChatGPT, being a language model, generates responses based on patterns it learned from a large text dataset. However, it doesn't "know" anything in the traditional sense. It doesn't have access to a database of specific documents or cases, and it doesn't have the ability to verify the truth or validity of the information it generates. Hence, it's expected that it would not be able to correctly cite court decisions, as this requires access to a current and specific database of court cases, which it does not have.

It appears that in this situation, the attorney relied on ChatGPT to provide and verify legal information without fully understanding how the technology works or its limitations. This is a cautionary tale for other professionals who may wish to use AI tools in their work. While AI can help automate certain tasks and improve efficiency, it is not a substitute for professional judgment, expertise, or the necessary checks and balances in legal work.

It's also important to note that AI tools, such as ChatGPT, continually evolve and improve, with updates aiming to enhance their reliability and usefulness. I think ChatGPT’s last model update was around September 2021; even the most sophisticated AI tools should not be relied upon for critical tasks without human supervision and verification.

As Stephen Gillers, the legal ethics professor at New York University School of Law, indicates, there is an ongoing debate among lawyers about the value and dangers of AI software. This incident will likely serve as a key example in that debate, highlighting the need for user understanding and caution when using these technologies. It also underscores the importance of continual learning and adaptation in professions like law as new technologies become increasingly prevalent.

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