ChatGPT has been taking the world by storm; it seems like everyone from high school students to professional copywriters are using it to their advantage. As it turns out, criminal defence lawyers are also discovering what ChatGPT can do. This can be both a blessing and a curse, but when used properly, it can successfully reduce some of the busywork that goes along with being an lawyer. Of course, a top-notch criminal defence law firm won’t rely heavily on AI tools like ChatGPT; they’ll still bring their own expertise to bear for the vast majority of their work. Rather, they may recognize how it could apply to their needs, and use it in specific applications.
So, what could those applications be? These are some of the most common ones.
It can sort through documents
Part of a lawyer’s job involves sorting through huge volumes of documents in a search for relevant information. This can be extremely time-consuming, and it could get a little too easy to miss key details as a result of fatigue. Using ChatGPT is a great way to sort through any number of documents, whether they’re legal briefs, expert reports, or court opinions. Plus, it can also summarize lengthy documents into concise summaries.
However, this is only possible if the correct details are provided. ChatGPT results are only as good as the prompts it receives, so lawyers should be aware of how to use prompts correctly in order to get the most relevant results.
It can proofread
There are many different programs available to help with editing, proofreading, and even elevating the caliber of someone’s writing. As it turns out, ChatGPT is yet another tool that can be used for this purpose. Plus, users can request that the resulting text be fine-tuned to adhere to legal requirements and conventions, have a specific tone of voice, and so on. This can result in a document that’s not only more accurate, but also more coherent.
It can help structure a deposition
The structure of a deposition can have a significant influence on the outcome of a case, so lawyers are typically very careful in how they develop each one. ChatGPT can’t write a deposition from scratch, but it can provide multiple options for explaining facts, wording statements, and so on. The lawyer can then take those options, and choose the ones that make the most sense. Further tweaking will be required, but this is a helpful way to explore all the angles quickly and easily.
It can rewrite letters
Criminal defence lawyers write a large number of documents, including letters that are drafted on behalf of their clients. This can involve using a specific tone of voice, which may be difficult to achieve without a lot of time spent revising first, second, and third drafts. With the right prompt, ChatGPT is capable of taking any text and adapting it to the requested tone. Again, the results will have to be edited by the lawyer, but it’s definitely a useful time-saving technique.
It can help with research
This particular function is a double-edged sword for lawyers. ChatGPT can certainly speed up the research process, but it also shouldn’t be used as a search engine. This AI tool doesn’t necessarily aim for accuracy in its search results; it just responds with the answers it thinks you’re looking for. If a prompt is poorly written, an lawyer could end up with false information that could weaken their case.
That being said, there are still ways to use ChatGPT for research without having to worry about erroneous data. For example, an lawyer who’s trying to remember a specific case could plug in a few of the details, and find the exact case they were looking for. As always, it’s important to double-check the results that are generated by ChatGPT, just to be on the safe side.
It can make legal jargon more accessible for the jury
This could be done by the criminal defence lawyers themselves, but ChatGPT is also a viable option for simplifying legal jargon, as well as various complex issues. For example, it can be used to describe the emotional or psychological struggles of the defendant, which may mitigate the extent of their alleged crimes in the eyes of the jury. This not only makes the case more comprehensible, but also more impactful.
It can generate web content
ChatGPT is increasingly becoming popular for generating content for web pages, blog articles, video scripts, and more. It reduces the cost of producing this type of content, and it saves time as well. Plus, it’s easy to personalize the results to fit the law firm’s overall tone.
What are the limitations of ChatGPT for criminal defence lawyers?
Even though ChatGPT has its uses, it shouldn’t be relied on too heavily to do a lawyer’s job. It may be a valuable resource for generating text or performing research, but in this case, it’s absolutely vital for the results to be confirmed by an expert.
Why is this so important? Well, two New York-based lawyers, Peter LoDuca and Steven A. Schwartz, used ChatGPT to research cases that were related to their client lawsuit. Unfortunately, they failed to authenticate the results, and it turned out that the AI tool had fabricated legal cases to match their queries. This mistake resulted in not only a $5,000 fine, but also a fair amount of unwanted notoriety.
When it comes to criminal defence lawyers, it’s important to present the strongest possible case – something you need an actual lawyer for, not just an AI tool. Some defendants face jail time as a result of the criminal charges, and it would be terrible if over-reliance on ChatGPT weakened the defence’s case to the point of an unfavorable outcome.
There’s no doubt that ChatGPT has already earned its place among the research and writing tools that law firms use every day. As long as the users are aware of the tool’s limitations, using ChatGPT is a choice that’s both ethical and smart for criminal defence lawyers.