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What ChatGPT can’t replace for in-house lawyers

Artificial intelligence (AI) in many forms, including ChatGPT, will be a “fantastic” tool for those in-house lawyers who choose to embrace them. However, there are certain things that this new platform will never have and that law departments must nurture, according to GCs.

user iconJerome Doraisamy 07 February 2023 Corporate Counsel
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ChatGPT, a chatbot interface for an AI tool called GPT3 that “interacts in a conversational way” and generates text in response to different prompts, is all the rage right now.

After a rumoured $10 billion injection from Microsoft, Open AI and ChatGPT are making global headlines, with such technological developments potentially set to have major ramifications for lawyers, law students and the regulatory landscape.

As previously reported by Lawyers Weekly, “authentic” law school assessments will be required to combat the use of ChatGPT to cheat, and the advent of the platform means that experimentation with legal education will also be needed.


However, at this stage, it does not appear likely that ChatGPT will wholly replace lawyers — at least not yet.

Benefits of use for corporate counsel

In the in-house realm, ChatGPT will be a “fantastic” tool for those in-house lawyers who choose to embrace them, Cyber GC principal Annie Haggar told Lawyers Weekly.

“A lot of time is spent by in-house counsel tailoring templates, or the email you wrote last week on a similar topic, to answer the question at hand. By using ChatGPT, you can save time by getting it to complete simple tasks, forms, etc.,” she explained.

“Many teams are wanting to automate contract production — using a simple ‘wizard’ to help the business complete tools. A future AI tool will make this even easier to build and use. It could also be a fantastic FAQ tool for questions from the business about a range of legal topics.”

Ms Haggar — who last year won the General Counsel of the Year category at the Australian Law Awards — also noted that ChatGPT can and will likely have a “big role” in training junior legal counsel — something, she said, that in-house teams “struggle to have time to do”.

“I could get lawyers off to a great start with drafting advice or simple documents for clients, helping with ‘touch and tone’ and having a ‘business voice’. The letters I’ve tried using ChatGPT to draft have a nice, plain English, business-friendly approach,” she mused.

NOVA Entertainment group general counsel Danielle Keyes — who won the FMCG Lawyer of the Year category at the 2022 Corporate Counsel Awards while she was with Guzman y Gomez — agreed there are myriad benefits for law departments that can successfully utilise such technology, noting that there is an “unachievable expectation” upon such teams to keep on top of workload.

“They all too frequently exist in a constant state of disappointment in response to the pace of the business. A simple question doesn’t necessarily equate to a simple answer, and often, we can’t move and deliver as fast as the business needs or wants us to,” she reflected.

“So, there is absolutely scope to automate and commoditise high-volume, low-risk work and perhaps there is also scope to assimilate ChatGPT within the commercial functions of the business to guide negotiations and deliver more expedient outcomes.”

Leveraging in-house lawyers’ unique value

However, Ms Keyes stressed, there is something that platforms like ChatGPT will never have: “the unique mind of a lawyer, the intricate and multifaceted lens under which we see things”.

“The chess game we play internally on loop, born from years of ‘on the tools’ real human experience and a deep holistic understanding of the business,” she advised.

“Every day, in everything we execute, we move so many mental pieces, each representing, sometimes in conflict with each other, the needs of stakeholders; the business risk profile; brand protection; strategic manoeuvres and commercial drivers (to name a few).

“I don’t know how AI can be across all of that, all of the time.” 

Ms Haggar supported this: “The areas that I can’t see being replaced in in-house legal teams any time soon are those requiring creative or risk assessment skills.

“Making a judgement call on complex topics, balancing ethics, regulation and grey areas of the law, or finding genuinely new ways of solving problems will remain the reserve of the human members of the team.”


It will also be important, Ms Haggar pointed out, for “guardrails” to be in place for the use of ChatGPT.

“We already know that some data sets, algorithms and code can contain inherent biases which produce outcomes that are discriminatory,” she warned.

“Everyone, not just lawyers, should use these tools with caution and keep an eye, over time, on the quality, accuracy, tone and any biases of the work produced.”

Further thoughts

Ultimately, Ms Haggar determined, in-house lawyers “should embrace the technology, use it to work ‘smarter’, and free their time up to really add value to their business”.

Such value can and will be showcased, she said, by using their creativity, judgement, and human nature “on the big legal questions”.