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How lawyers can (and should) be leveraging ChatGPT

Following the rise of ChatGPT, this principal lawyer said that while there are certain drawbacks with the program so far, legal professionals need to start using and leveraging AI tech sooner rather than later. 

user iconLauren Croft 26 April 2023 Big Law
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Patrick Fair is the principal at Patrick Fair Associates and an adjunct professor in the School of Information Technology at Deakin University.

Speaking recently on The Lawyers Weekly Show, produced in partnership with Legalwise Seminars, he spoke about ChatGPT and what it means for legal practice, as well as some of the issues and challenges around the program and how those in the legal profession can be utilising it.

After making global headlines over the last few months, artificial intelligence (AI) platforms like ChatGPT are changing — and will continue to — the day-to-day operations of legal practice to some extent. You can read Lawyers Weekly’s full coverage of ChatGPT and what lawyers need to know here.


ChatGPT — and the implementation of similar AI tech — is “absolutely massive” in terms of transformation, according to Mr Fair, who has tested the platform in a number of different ways.

“The first thing to say is that it’s important to have the right prompt, and it’s important to develop the prompt so that the output you get from the machine is what you want. There’s actually a methodology where you can get the machine to help you write your prompt because it remembers instructions you give it, and it loves to have a premise.

“I found it’s really useful if you have a new project where you need to do a legal review or you need to understand a new client or you need to look at the legal implications of a particular practice or process and you ask ChatGPT; it’ll give you a list. And then that sort of soft list, which is just ideas or potentially useful material, usually contains two or three things you didn’t immediately think of,” he said.  

“And it’s so quick that the way it could improve the way you address your client with questions, the way you predict issues in a matter and the way you formulate what you put into a document is immensely helpful.”

ChatGPT will also draft legal documents and basic agreements and can be “fabulously useful” for internal and client communications, as well as producing marketing material. However, increasing efficiency can also come with challenges, added Mr Fair.

“On the one hand, you’ve got this massive increase in your ability to produce first drafts and to get issues and ideas. Something that an associate might take an hour to produce or three hours, you can get knocked up in a couple of seconds, but then you have to check it. And then it raises the bar because it will give you a list of issues, a list of potential ways to improve your output, which will require you to do more work and more thinking,” he explained.

“So, you get this efficiency dividend, but you also get the burden that this thing is now a new standard of competence. And if what you’re doing is something that has missed a point or has omitted to consider, but put it in GPT and it’s just listed out you in a couple of seconds, really you might have been negligent. It’s going to raise the standard of what we’re required to produce as lawyers.”

Despite raising the standard, it’s highly unlikely that ChatGPT will actually replace lawyers.

“In many cases, what a lawyer brings to the table, in my view, is an understanding of context and also a deeper understanding of the meaning of some of the concepts which are used in law and how they have practical implications. So, this machine isn’t going to take that away, but I do think it will present a challenge for the legal profession in the future, getting us to senior lawyers who do understand the concepts and can put things in context, because it offers such a short path to getting you to that first step,” Mr Fair added.  

“They’ll have to work out a new way to train people so that they can use it, test it, and evolve their practice and their advice, well and cautiously taking advantage of it. And that’s a different sort of career path with a new emphasis on training and experience that we currently take for granted just in the growth of somebody through their practice.”

In terms of newer skills, lawyers will need to master with the rise of this technology, Mr Fair said that lawyers should be aware of a few key things when using ChatGPT.

I think at the most obvious level, understanding how to get the most out of the tool is the first thing: understanding what its limitations are and how to really use it at each stage of your production process so that you can meet this new standard of practice and performance. The first thing,” he added.

“The second thing is I think we’ll need to be very good at checking and reviewing what it takes, and always having a guard up to make sure that a generalisation that’s appeared in a summary or an advice provided in the first instance from GPT is checked. And that you don’t take for granted any sort of generalisation it makes as a proposition without seeing that you’ve got another way of checking it.”

Lastly, Mr Fair predicted that ChatGPT is likely to be used more and more moving forward — meaning that lawyers should start to leverage the program now.

“I think that using it as a learning tool is really powerful, and I think we really need to get across that and build it into our education system and to our personal training. I also think there are chances for it to be used in automated legal practice. There’s a big, unserved part of the community still because legal lawyers are so expensive and often regarded as, you only go if you have to go, like the dentist. And so, there’s an opportunity to service the community more widely with a better quality of engagement,” he explained.  

“And also, an opportunity to use it for analysing documents and reporting on what’s in [the] thing you’re signing or what are the substantive materials in these long terms and conditions that you’re being asked to click through? Also, a question there of how much you want to rely on the way the language model produces its summary, but it’s certainly better than doing it blind. This is a change in the standard of care, and you cannot turn away. You have to get in deep and work out how to leverage what you’re doing.”

The transcript of this podcast episode was slightly edited for publishing purposes. To listen to the full conversation with Patrick Fair, click below: