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ChatGPT a ‘useful resource’ for boutiques, despite drawbacks

Following the rise of ChatGPT — and its widespread uses in a range of different professions, including law — these boutique firm owners weighed in on how artificial intelligence (AI) technologies can benefit smaller firms, as well as the current and potential drawbacks of implementing it day-to-day.

user iconLauren Croft 16 February 2023 SME Law
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AI technologies are set to have a massive impact for lawyers, law students and the regulatory landscape, with OpenAI’s chatbot, ChatGPT, making global headlines so far in 2023.

And while uptake in technology has been particularly accelerated within the legal profession post-pandemic, Redenbach Legal principal solicitor Keith Redenbach told Lawyers Weekly that tech “has been the future of law firms for the past 30 years”.

Firms that do not change will become extinct like dinosaurs. Work from home was supercharged by COVID-19 and a once-in-a-generation global event. The possibilities for lawyers to build on step changes in tech are truly inspiring,” he explained.


“When I entered law about 30 years ago, only large law firms could afford the expensive research resources that were at their fingertips. By using the free resource of the internet, SME firms have been able to leverage their low-cost base and provide superior outcomes for clients. ChatGPT takes the free resource one step further, by offering a free (at the moment) commentary service for all to use.”

This means that lawyers’ skill sets will need to increasingly evolve with the development of AI technologies — and that legal workplaces will need to have policies in place to support the use of ChatGPT and similar AI moving forward, as previously revealed by Lawyers Weekly.

Technologies like ChatGPT will therefore need to be a part of the way “law firms operate as a business model”, according to AMK Law principal solicitor Matthew Karakoulakis, who explained that ChatGPT could “deliver massive impacts” in the near future.

“ChatGPT is a wonderful resource to be used in the way law firms operate, and hopefully, as the AI technology develops, improves and advances, it might be the case that law firms can reach greater levels of accuracy, efficiency and automation towards legal services at cost-effective rates for clients. That said, the current technology has real limitations, and there’s a long way to go before any ‘revolutionary’ components can really take place, if at all, in the long run,” he explained.

“ChatGPT can be a useful resource and have a positive impact on day-to-day lawyer activities. [But] at present with the current technology the way it is, there are significant limitations, for example, accuracy and core legal activities are irreplaceable whilst ChatGPT and AI can still be a resource to use.”

While the bot can be a fantastic tool for those in a number of different roles, it does not appear likely that ChatGPT will wholly replace lawyers — at least not yet, with concerns raised around the accuracy of the program.

And despite being a “fan of the system at a general level”, Mr Redenbach said this must be caveated by the fact that the system is still “dangerous to rely on”.

“To the use of [ChatGPT] by law firms, I am more reserved. On a positive note, the system offers a way for firms to engage in informal testing of draft legal advice. On the flip side, in my view, it will not replace the soft skills and perhaps even many ‘black letter’ law aspects of a law firm’s advice to its clients for some time. For instance, the recent failure of the bar exam would be enough to warn any person seeking to rely on the system that it is not safe and is perhaps even quite dangerous to use and rely exclusively on it,” he added.

“Despite that, I have suggested our team test what we have reasoned in our advice (or parts thereof) so as to operate as a test against our views. It will add some fun to the day at the very least and perhaps even spark a few new ideas.”

Universities across Australia have also expressed concerns about the bot being used to cheat within schools, with a recent panel discussion at UNSW emphasising the importance of teaching students to use AI tools “ethically, morally and legally”.

There are a number of other dangers in using ChatGPT to stay abreast of, said Mr Karakoulakis, including laws around copyright and IP, as the tool gathers information from the depths of the internet to form prompt responses.

“New tech and AI can be a useful resource, especially as clients are more cost-sensitive than ever before. The online environment presents us with an overload of information, and clients of small law firms often require costs to be lower, which forces efficiencies to compete and stay in the game. AI can be a resource but will unlikely ever replace the genuine level of empathy and client understanding to achieve what clients need.

“We also need to keep in mind the risks associated with the new tech and AI resources, especially as cyber threats continue, and feed data information retained by law firms, including on cloud services and online platforms, is increasing. Overall, this does bring with it a greater risk, and security measures must be developed and utilised to the professional obligations and client data remain secure, including with the operation of AI resources and online technologies like ChatGPT,” he noted.  

“It might still be early days because, presently, there is not a massive difference between, say, ChatGPT and what Google researching and other research tools can do. Whilst ChatGPT can assist in the content creation process, it can’t dive into the facts of a legal dispute, the commercial drivers of a complex commercial transaction, ethical duties and other things like that.”

Despite these risks, ChatGPT can have a number of positive impacts on lawyers’ day-to-day tasks — and Mr Karakoulakis insisted that “newer and fresher insights and perspectives have always been a part of excellence in service delivery as a part of the legal profession”.

“Lawyers are used to technology and resource tools, and ChatGPT can be a useful way for research tasks to be done, especially when it comes to younger lawyers. AI can be a good way for information to be gained while also requiring the actual human side of a lawyer to achieve the right level of flexibility and freedom for the lawyer’s ability to flourish with the resourcefulness of the technology,” he said.

“ChatGPT and AI [are] currently very limited when it comes to real-time application in the sense in which clients need to achieve outcomes involving strategic thinking, negotiation skills, a real sense of justice and application of legal precedent to a genuine set of facts, for example, in the complex style litigation and commercial transactions. These limits might be overcome as the technology develops in terms of what it can do.”

And moving forward, these technologies can be particularly valuable for smaller firms, emphasised Mr Karakoulakis.

“A small law firm, boutiques and sole practitioners don’t have the same level of resources like a larger firm. For example, business and operational development is resource-intensive, meaning a smaller law firm has to balance the time and monetary resources towards recruitment and training of staff, infrastructure and system improvements whilst ensuring client satisfaction continues with the firm’s growth.

“With this in mind, ChatGPT can be a valuable resource to the way smaller firms operate, and as a resource towards efficiencies, for example, tasks like social media post caption ideas, blog posts and article outlines, content writing assistance and marketing-style wording and text can all benefit through the AI invested into ChatGPT,” he added.

“But I don’t think ChatGPT or AI, for that matter, can properly replace the kinds of real-time analytical skills, critical thinking, empathy and human relationship that’s required to properly serve clients to achieve the highest quality results in the way that clients’ legal matters deserve.”