Could ChatGPT and AI Change Delivery of Legal Services?

Two attorneys weigh in on whether artificial intelligence could become a legitimate (and trustworthy) way to get legal help in the future.

A young man sits at his desk in front of his open laptop and appears to be talking into his smartphone while it's on speaker.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

“Mr. Beaver, I’ve been reading about AI — artificial intelligence — and ChatGPT, which you can talk to and which, because of its enormous database, can actually function as a lawyer, providing advice or even help you manage a lawsuit that you are involved in at present. Is this for real or is it just hype? I need to know this because I was just sued by a former employer and have to defend myself. Thanks for your help, ‘Ben.’”

If you have heard that artificial intelligence and the chatbot ChatGPT is a replacement for an actual attorney, I suggest that you watch the 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey, in which the human-sounding HAL computer — an actual crew member on this spaceship — loses its mind with disastrous results.

ChatGPT Imitates Human Conversation

San Francisco-based OpenAI made the ChatGPT chatbot, which mimics human conversation, available for free public testing on Nov. 30 last year. ChatGPT is quite amazing, and you’ve probably seen news stories on the scope of what it can do, from writing term papers to creating poetry and writing legal pleadings.

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I ran the question of what impact AI will have on access and the delivery of legal services by Southern California trial lawyers Brian Kabateck and Shant Karnikian.

“Artificial intelligence — robots are useful in drafting things that are standardized,” Karnikian said, “such as creating leases and contracts — things of a transactional nature. But it is far less in a litigation context where many elements are individualized. Where there is a dispute between parties that can’t be standardized — as each matter and the wrongs that are done to people are different — this is where I doubt a computer will ever replace juries who can deal with damages on an individualized basis. That said, in the litigation world, AI will be helpful assisting with logistics, such as notices that go out, answering questions based on non-subjective facts, such as: ‘When is the hearing?’ ‘When will the checks be disbursed?’”

Kabateck said, “Be skeptical of lawyers who represent that they are more cost effective because they use AI to help them with their cases. There is a substantial amount of reasoning, human review and discretion that lawyers are trained to do. I would be suspicious of lawyers who claim that they can get things done much more quickly because they have AI doing all the work. Where you hire an attorney to draft a contract or any document that is important to your future, you’ve got to be sure that someone is actually looking at it. Otherwise, what are you paying them for?”

“In its present form,” Karnikian added, “it is doubtful that AI can find the smoking gun. In litigation there are times when you need legal research to support an argument, and one lawyer in the room was the only person to spot it even though AI was used as a research tool. From what I have seen of computerized legal research — which is a form of AI — it is not good at finding those little nuances in appellate decisions that make a huge difference. But that is what a lawyer’s experience brings to the table — finding a case that might not be relevant on point but makes an analogous argument. Perhaps AI will evolve and do that, but for now that’s where I have concerns. How do I know that it went through everything in supporting some critical argument?”

What Clients Must Watch Out For

I asked the lawyers what clients should look out for when it comes to AI and legal advice. Kabateck said, “How are you being billed?” He offered the following advice on that:

  • Make sure that you are not being charged the lawyer’s regular rate if AI was actually doing the work.
  • You want a lawyer who is sure that what the AI generates is correct. That will be a factor at some firms that rely solely on AI. The lawyer has an ethical responsibility to oversee any work that is being done by AI.
  • “I can see real problems and potential malpractice suits against lawyers who accepted cases outside of their area of practice and relied on AI to manage the case,” Kabateck said. “A lawyer who accepts a case that gets into an area of the law he is completely unfamiliar with runs the risk of committing malpractice and doing the client real harm.”
  • AI will not turn you into an instant lawyer! You will not know what you missed! “Dennis, your reader sounds as if he plans to use AI and AI alone to defend him in this lawsuit,” Kabateck said. “This is like taking out your own appendix when you haven’t attended medical school. Avoid law firms heavily marketing the fact that all their work is done through AI or who some software they claim to make themselves more efficient.”

Both lawyers caution: “Avoid anyone who, as their number one marketing gimmick, advertises, ‘We will only charge you so much because we use AI.’”

Good advice.

Dennis Beaver practices law in Bakersfield, Calif., and welcomes comments and questions from readers, which may be faxed to (661) 323-7993, or e-mailed to And be sure to visit


This article was written by and presents the views of our contributing adviser, not the Kiplinger editorial staff. You can check adviser records with the SEC or with FINRA.

H. Dennis Beaver, Esq.
Attorney at Law, Author of "You and the Law"

After attending Loyola University School of Law, H. Dennis Beaver joined California's Kern County District Attorney's Office, where he established a Consumer Fraud section. He is in the general practice of law and writes a syndicated newspaper column, "You and the Law." Through his column he offers readers in need of down-to-earth advice his help free of charge. "I know it sounds corny, but I just love to be able to use my education and experience to help, simply to help. When a reader contacts me, it is a gift."