ChatGPT Is Already Getting Lawyers In Trouble

The American Bar Association recently reported on a matter in which lawyers had used ChatGPT to do their legal research. Apparently, the lawyers trusted AI enough that they never bothered to see if what it gave them for their legal brief to the court was accurate. It wasn't. According to the ABA article, the brief cited numerous cases and opinions that were completely fake. No such cases existed and the reasoning referred to in them was non-existent. Scary stuff! Judges may not always see this coming and it could have damaging effects. So far the legal scholars and those who write ethical standards for State Bar organizations have not set out rules for lawyers using ChatGPT.

What Does This Mean For You, The Consumer?

My work as a consultant focuses on elders and their families with legal, healthcare and family dynamics issues. Some of these matters are fights that do escalate into lawsuits. Clients sometimes need a lawyer to represent them in disputes about undue influence, wills and trusts, probate and other financial dealings. Can you imagine a lawyer you hired using ChatGPT and getting in trouble with the judge because of their use of AI to cite fake law and fake cases? It would destroy all credibility you might otherwise have.

I was a litigator for 27 years before retiring from combat to form my company, Back in the day, legal research was painstaking and time consuming, done by humans. Now, AI is already creating a danger in what lawyers present as "the law" in a matter before the court. Speed and saving lawyer time are likely the motivators to use it. Beware!

What any consumer with any need to hire a lawyer can do is to ask: do you/your firm use ChatGPT for any legal research? If the answer is "yes" or "sometimes", I would steer clear. Obviously ChatGPT could have many beneficial uses. But until it is properly regulated by both the government and every State Bar organization, it is too dangerous to rely upon, as the ABA has just reported. Imagine the embarrassment you would have in being confronted by the court where your case is filed, to justify using fake cases to support any legal position your lawyer presents.

Whether you are a fan of ChatGPT or not, know that you have the power to ask questions about its use in what you are paying for with any professional matter. The takeaway is that this rapidly evolving form of AI gets it wrong sometimes. How often and how wrong we don't yet know. Don't let AI generated errors destroy whatever objective you have in retaining lawyers or other professionals to help you.