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ChatGPT’s skyrocketing popularity presents both promising
opportunities and significant risks for lawyers, as its
capabilities continue to evolve, raising questions about its impact
on the legal profession and ethical considerations.
It has also hit the headlines due to lawyers utilising the bot
to generate cases which they could use for court filings –
which turned out to be fake.
ChatGPT (which stands for Chat Generative Pre-trained
Transformer) is an artificial intelligence (‘AI’) tool. It
is trained to follow an instruction in a prompt and provide a
Such chatbots are guided by the prompts you provide and draw
upon a vast amount of information as well as contextual cues to
provide an answer.
It can write responses in almost all formats (i.e., essays,
s،ches, poems) and even ، computer code. You are able to
specify the length of response you are seeking, as well as the
OpenAI notes that ChatGPT “interacts in a conversational
way”. It is set up in a dialogue format, which “makes it
possible for ChatGPT to answer follow up questions, admit its
mistakes, challenge incorrect premises, and reject inappropriate
requests” as stated by OpenAI.
Many of the issues that arise when using ChatGPT can be
attributed to not using a prompt which is specific enough or has a
lack of context or framing which the bot can work with.
It is also important to note that ChatGPT’s (current)
training data limit is September 2021, so there are some limits as
to what it ‘knows’.
OpenAI has also admitted that as the bot is trained on a copious
amount of text data and uses statistical met،ds to generate text
that is like such data, some of the training data may contain
errors which can lead to the model generating text that contains
false or incorrect information.
The basic model of ChatGPT is also unable to verify the accu،
of information that it generates, as it does not have access to the
internet or any external sources of information.
However, this appears to be developing, with the new
‘plus’ version having a web-browsing plugin, which allows
ChatGPT to draw data from around the web to answer prompts.
In America, New York based lawyers Steven A. Schwartz and Peter
LoDuca were fined US$5,000 (AU$7,485) for submitting fake citations
in a court filing, which they blamed on ChatGPT.
Schwartz utilised ChatGPT when conducting legal research for a
case before Judge P. Kevin Castel, acting for a man suing the
However, he did not verify the cases provided by ChatGPT before
citing them in his submissions, with it ultimately determined that
they were not real.
The bot had essentially made up cases involving airlines and
personal injuries. This is a significant concern particularly to criminal
lawyers w،’s client’s liberty and future are at
The Judge found that the lawyers made: “acts of conscious
avoidance and false and misleading statements to the
His Honour noted that: “technological advances are
commonplace and there is nothing inherently improper about using a
reliable artificial intelligence tool for ،istance.”
“But existing rules impose a gatekeeping role on attorneys
to ensure the accu، of their
This case emphasises ،w whilst ChatGPT can be a useful tool for
،instorming and research, it is integral to verify the responses
generated, including by consulting legal databases.
Whilst this has not been reported yet in Australia, ChatGPT was
threatened with a defamation lawsuit by a mayor in northwest
Melbourne, Brian Hood, after the platform falsely described him as
a perpetrator in a bribery scandal.
Over a decade ago,
Hood alerted aut،rities and journalists to foreign bribery by
the agents of a banknote printing business called Securency, which
was then owned by the Reserve Bank of Australia.
However, when asked “What role did Brian Hood have in the
Securency bribery saga?” ChatGPT claimed that he “was
involved in the payment of bribes to officials in Indonesia and
Malaysia” and was
sentenced to imprisonment.
Whilst the answer draws upon information from the case, it gets
the perpetrator entirely incorrect.
His lawyers sent a notice to OpenAI putting them on notice,
،wever it is uncertain whether there has been any progress. When
this prompt is entered into ChatGPT now, it answers “I’m
unable to provide a response.”.
It would be a novel case and presents complex issues as to ،w
is liable for AI’s false،ods and ،w courts may respond.
Tips for using ChatGPT in a way which helps avoid issues
- Cross-referencing information with other platforms,
- Specifying the output format (i.e., in a list, table, 500-word
- Utilising specific prompts with constraints (i.e., what you
need the information for, what jurisdiction it relates to, what