Paul L. Caron

Saturday, July 29, 2023

Is ChatGPT A Viable Research Alternative To LexisNexis|Westlaw For Some Lawyers?

Legal Tech News, Are Legal Research Costs Tempting Lawyers to Turn to ChatGPT?:

ChatGPT (2022)Earlier this year, the legal community balked at an error that has since become a clarion call for caution when using generative artificial intelligence tools. In May, an attorney used ChatGPT for legal research and filed a brief in federal court that was rife with fake case citations the chatbot had fabricated.

The news caused an uproar, leading to sanctions for the attorney in question, and pushing some judges to require the disclosure of use of generative AI in court filings. Still, it’s evident that when it comes to legal research, attorneys aren’t exactly spoiled for choice.

On one end exists ChatGPT—unreliable but free, or at very low cost—while on the other end are established legal research tools, such as Thomson Reuters’ Westlaw and the LexisNexis suite, which are more costly.

In the middle are several solutions, some that are included in state bar fees, and others that may be cheaper than the large legal research players, but come with limited capabilities, and often rely on Westlaw and Lexis to feed their repositories.

At the end of the day, however, many of the comprehensive options come with a high price tag, which can be a hurdle for legal professionals, so much so that some may explore riskier options.

Some attorneys told Legaltech News that while ChatGPT is most definitely not the way to go when it comes to legal research, for lawyers practicing in smaller firms with fewer resources, and solo attorneys who tend to focus in non-research heavy specialties, the online chatbot may be tempting to use, especially as costs for more traditional research tools continue to grow. ...

Sara Perkins Jones, the president of Spark eDiscovery, has experienced the costs as a litigator in Big Law at Ropes & Gray, and a smaller firm Anderson & Kreiger. Now, Jones is a solo practitioner who primarily focuses on e-discovery consulting. ...

“Anyone who’s actually done any significant research work doesn’t find [ChatGPT] tempting,” Jones said, mainly because it’s a limited research tool and Google’s search engine might even be a better alternative. ...

“There are areas of practice that are very trial-heavy and not very research heavy… and the iterative part of research [as an e-discovery attorney] is very difficult to do with an AI tool like ChatGPT,” Jones added. “But for attorneys who focus on [trial-heavy] cases, and don’t have as many resources [as Big Law], I could see these types of [AI] tools seeming like an option.”

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