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Technology Brings Us to the “Chatbot Lawyer”

What’s a chatbot lawyer? It’s that little box that pops up on lawyer’s websites offering to answer legal questions, put you in direct contact with one of the firm’s lawyers and even fills out intake forms. Legal dictionary writer Bryan Garner frets whether to include the phrase in Black’s Law Dictionary. It’s also a form of Artificial Intelligence that is finding its way into every corner of the law.

For some, the transition to using AI in the legal world hasn’t gone well, perhaps deservedly so in this instance. To some degree we’ve become so accustomed to website pop-ups and chatbots that appear on many other websites, so is it really a big deal that chatbots stormed the bastions of law firm websites?

On the other hand, the Robot Lawyer got yanked from the courtroom by the California State Bar, so apparently lawyers aren’t going to be replaced by robots anytime soon. Some would argue even so that there are already robotic lawyers in the courtroom who don’t have enough experience but rely instead on book learning and lack creativity.

But that’s a different story for a different day and not too far off I’m afraid. One AI chatbot passed part of the bar exam last month.

I tried AI. It doesn’t work for writing briefs, legal research or anything really that requires a lawyer. It makes up citations and cases that aren’t real. Unlike the lawyers in the last link, I researched the brief I asked ChatGPT to write. Not one of the citations was real, and when I searched for the text it supposedly excerpted from the mystery cases I couldn’t find, I was unable to find a case that used the quoted language. I unceremoniously uninstalled the app.

ChatGPT did a fine job writing a fictional story with a few human editing changes, but legal briefs aren’t fiction despite what your opposing counsel may claim. AI is not ready for prime time in a law firm or courtroom.

Chatbots on the other hand may be a great idea if they’re limited to intake and facilitating contact between lawyer and potential client. Chatbots that answer legal questions raise all type of ethical issues that likely won’t pass legal muster, however..

But you can always ask Lucy, even though it appears her 5¢ increased to $5.00 on Just Answer, a site with a 3.5 rating on Glassdoor, but will let you ask a real lawyer.

For now.