While artificial intelligence (AI) has exploded in popularity, it should not be relied upon for legal research or legal drafting—and it can even harm your case. This article explains what AI is, how to use it, and why it is unwise to use it as a substitute for a lawyer.
What is AI?
AI stands for “artificial intelligence,” a term for technology that can do tasks humans normally do. AI programs can't be as smart as humans in everything, but they're good at specific jobs, like recognizing songs or playing chess.
What is generative chat AI?
Generative chat AI draws on vast databases of information to talk to you in a conversational tone. It does not “think” like a human does but is very good at sounding like a human. When this article says “AI,” it refers to generative chat AI.
Can AI help with legal research?
No. Free or low-cost AI like ChatGPT cannot do legal research. It might give answers that look good but have wrong information.
Specialized AI tools for legal research do exist, but they are costly and meant for lawyers. Lawyers have training that lets them sort through good and bad results.
Can AI give me legal advice?
No. AI can't give legal advice. It might give clear and confident-sounding answers, but those answers are very often wrong. Following advice generated by AI may lead to mistakes in your case.
What is an AI prompt?
A prompt is what you type to talk to the AI. Make sure to be clear and specific because AI can't read your mind. Breaking down what you want into smaller steps can help get better results.
Is AI getting better?
Yes, AI is improving fast, but we are far from being able to rely on it for legal needs.
Do courts require you to disclose the use of AI?
If you represent yourself in court, you must follow the same rules as a lawyer. This includes knowing the local court rules, ethical rules, and the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure. It is important to be familiar with these rules and make sure you follow them.
At least one federal judge in Texas has set strict standards for AI in their courtroom. The judge has parties confirm that they have either not filed any documents written by AI, or that a human has thoroughly checked any AI-generated filings for accuracy and sound legal reasoning.
What is AI good for?
AI is good at things like:
- Proofreading. AI can find mistakes and make your writing clearer, but always check its changes.
- Organizing thoughts. AI can take what you type and turn it into a neat outline, list, or paragraph. Again, always check its changes.
- Helping to understand legal documents. You might use AI to summarize, or “translate,” legalese into plain English. Be careful when doing this. AI is wrong sometimes, especially when explaining complex legal topics.
Keep the following in mind when using AI.
Protect your privacy. Never share sensitive info with AI, like your social security number or bank details.
Watch out for misinformation. AI gets information wrong. It even makes things up entirely. It is not useful to ask an AI if it is sure about something or telling the truth, as it is just as likely to be incorrect the second time.
Watch out for bias. AI might not be balanced or show all sides of a topic. It can sometimes ignore valid minority concerns.
Always verify. Never take AI at its word. If AI tells you about case law or a statute, try to find out if the case or statute really exists. If it does exist, check to make sure it says what you think it says. Also make sure the information is current and applies where you live. The law changes over time and can vary from place to place. See our Legal Research Guide.
Consult a professional. We do not recommend using AI to write legal documents. If you do use AI to write legal documents, get an attorney to review those documents. Never assume that the AI knows what document you need, how a court might expect that document to look, or that the document contains correct information. Consider limited scope representation to help with attorney costs.
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