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The Road to Success is Never Paved with Shortcuts: A Law Professor Warns About ChatGPT

We’re all looking for ways to make life easier and more efficient. I could Google “ChatGPT,” and several websites would be suggested to help me write this article. But as someone who enjoys writing, interviewing experts, and doing research, I don’t suggest copying and pasting whatever Wikipedia or a journalist has to say about the subject and then calling it a day. Nothing can replace human connections, the confidence in accurate results from multiple, credible sources, and the satisfaction that only comes with sweat equity.

AI research and deployment company OpenAI unveiled ChatGPT, an artificial intelligence chatbot, to the public just four months ago.

According to its website, ChatGPT

is a language model that can “interact in a conversational way. The dialogue format makes it possible for ChatGPT to answer follow-up questions, admit its mistakes, challenge incorrect premises, and reject inappropriate requests.” It’s currently being offered as a research preview to learn about its strengths and weaknesses. You can play with ChatGPT here on OpenAI’s website. As you can imagine, the technology has its fans and skeptics.

In academia and the legal world, ChatGPT is already in use. Students can use it to help generate essays.

Professors at the Universities of Minnesota and Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business recently acknowledged that ChatGPT passed exams, including law exams from four courses. A judge in Columbia, South America admitted to using ChatGPT - rather than hiring a paralegal or administrative assistant - to help him prepare a ruling in a mentally disabled child’s medical rights case. We were curious to find out what law and tech educators had to say about ChatGPT.

Information Technology Librarian/Adjunct Professor Grace Simms teaches an advanced legal technology course at Cumberland School of Law at Samford University.

“Law students are supposed to be technologically competent. Every state has a different version of what that means. Lawyers can’t just simply be aware of artificial intelligence technology such as ChatGPT. Being technologically competent means knowing how to use it and when to use it. It is not to use for generating accurate answers but for providing suggestions that still need to be fact-checked elsewhere. You must be willing to think like a lawyer. You must be willing to read and invest the time to do real research for your cases.”

Whether you’re a law student or a seasoned attorney or judge, instant gratification seems nice, but it can be a dangerously lazy way to make your way in the world. “Not everything can be done well, or correctly or ethically in this manner,” says Simms. Good, old-fashioned legwork is still necessary. “ChatGPT is just another industrial revolution, in my opinion. And we’ve just got to learn how we’re going to utilize it, if at all.”

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