More than half of in-house lawyers back ChatGPT’s use for legal work, study shows

Three-quarters of corporate counsel also recognise the potential risks, according to Thomson Reuters
Portland, OR, USA - Dec 18, 2022: Webpage of ChatGPT, a prototype AI chatbot, is seen on the website of OpenAI, on a smartphone. Examples, capabilities, and limitations are shown before a new chat.

Some 11% of in-house lawyers say they are already using or plan to use ChatGPT for legal work Tada Images; Shutterstock

More than half of in-house lawyers believe ChatGPT and similar AI tools should be used for legal work, according to a new report from Thomson Reuters.

Some 54% of in-house lawyers believe generative AI technology can help with legal matters, with 11% of corporate counsel already using or planning to use ChatGPT, compared to just 5% of private practice lawyers. The study also shows that more in-house lawyers are aware of ChatGPT (95%) compared to their private practice peers (91%).

Kriti Sharma, chief product officer of legal technology at Thomson Reuters, said: “It’s undeniable that the future of work is set to be revolutionised by generative AI. As an industry, we need to work together to find the right balance between the benefits of this technology and any unintended consequences. This is particularly important for the legal sector where overcoming transparency and accuracy issues will be critical to widespread adoption of AI.”

Despite more than half of in-house lawyers believing such tools can be used for legal work, 75% of corporate legal professionals also said they had ‘some degree of concern’ over the risks posed by generative AI tech, compared to 62% of private practice lawyers. Those concerns relate to areas such as accuracy, privacy, confidentiality and security.

Accuracy issues were highlighted in a recent US legal case where a lawyer submitted a court filing that contained six ‘bogus’ judicial decisions that were completely fabricated by the generative AI tool the lawyer had used.

More than a quarter of UK in-house lawyers (27%) said they have received warnings about unauthorised ChatGPT use at work, compared to 15% of law firms (rising to 21% for large law firms). Around one in 10 corporate legal professionals in the UK say their companies have banned the use of ChatGPT for work.

Sharma said: “Even as the technology becomes more advanced, generative AI will be most effective when combined with the expertise of lawyers to apply analysis and reasoning. AI will not replace an attorney – we will continue to need trained professionals to apply human empathy, rationale and understanding.”

The report surveyed more than 500 in-house lawyers in the US, UK and Canada. An earlier report surveyed more than 400 lawyers at midsize and large law firms, also in the US, UK and Canada.

Addressing the Law Society of Scotland’s Law and Technology Conference last week, Master of the Rolls, Sir Geoffrey Vos, said he believed clients would put pressure on their advisers to use ChatGPT to save money. 

Earlier this year, Magic Circle firm Allen & Overy said it had partnered with ChatGPT creator OpenAI to introduce a chatbot to help its lawyers with legal tasks such as contract analysis, due diligence and regulatory compliance.

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