Law & ChatGPT: Will AI take over lawyers and judges?
Updated on 16 June 2023
In light of creation of the ChatGPT and its rapid development, questions were raised regarding its legal advice/decision abilities. The chatbot made its very first appearance in the recent Colombian case, where judge Juan Manuel Padilla Garcia consulted ChatGPT about his decision. Essentially, a minor diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder lacked the financial resources to pay the medical expenses. The health insurance company, from which the exemption for the medicines was requested, denied the minor’s request. The case was then brought before the Colombian courts, where the parents of the minor sued the health insurance company as, under the Colombian law, he is exempt from paying for the medicines.
As such Judge Padilla asked ChatGPT:
The use of Artificial intelligence (AI) for a court’s decision was made under Colombia’s new decree 2213 on AI and lawyers/judges, which may be used in civil, labor, family, administrative, and constitutional cases. Essentially, Art.1 of the decree sets that the implementation of Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) in judicial proceedings intends to make the use of technology and computer tools more flexible for the users of justice service. Additionally, Art.2 states that ICTs should be used appropriately to facilitate and expedite justice. Adopting this decree does not intend to replace the role of lawyers or judges, but rather to enable AI use to enhance Colombia’s judicial system. In the decision of the case, judge Padilla emphasised that ‘the purpose of including these AI texts is in no way to replace the judges’ decision. What we seek is to optimise the time spent writing judgments, prior corroboration of the information provided by IA.’ In his interview, Judge Padilla stated that, in making the decision, the cases from previous rulings were used to support the decision, while also stating that the use of technology could make Colombia’s legal system more efficient. Thus, the question raised is whether ChatGPT or any other AI system would be able to replace the skills of a lawyer or a judge. In answering the question, we asked ChatGPT itself whether this could be possible.
Namely, we asked:
It is thus evident that the chatbot does not consider itself reliable enough to give legal advice and replace the role of lawyers and judges, but confirms that it could be a useful tool in terms of accessing information, legal drafting, and case management. Colombia’s Supreme Court Judge Octavio Tejeiro stated that AI systems should be used in an ethical way to improve the justice system without making it more important than the person. At the same time, there has been much criticisms regarding the use of AI in judicial systems, and whether it could replace or be as reliable as real lawyers and judges.
Indeed, AI systems cannot replace the experience and knowledge of real lawyers and judges, and what should be borne in mind is how they could be misused. Despite ChatGPT admitting that it cannot replace the skills and expertise of lawyers and judges, it does not imply that it will not answer a legal question. This could become problematic if individuals who may lack the resources to get legal advice from a lawyer use the chatbot for consultation and rely 100% on its reply. If the decision of the chatbot is not confirmed by a legal advisor or a lawyer, it may lead to violations. Considering that there is no fact-checking, it is uncertain whether the generated sentences are reliable enough.
In the cases of judges, however, it is presumed that they would be able to filter any answer that the chatbot would give them. At the same time, if they were to rely 100% on the answer given by the chatbot, judges’ legitimacy would be questioned and could, eventually, have a detrimental effect on the legal system of the country in question.
It is evident that ChatGPT will not replace lawyers and judges, but what could cause problems is if legal professionals rely 100% on AI systems, as this could lead to detrimental consequences. It is the ethical use of AI that is in question, rather than the fear of replacement. Therefore, AI systems, in this case, ChatGPT, should be regulated effectively to prevent their misuse and ensure their effective enforcement in legal systems.