AI Chatbots in Law: The Benefits and the Risks

5 min read

Here’s what you should know before using an AI chatbot in your legal practice.

Legal AI chatbots have arrived, and they’re shaking up the legal landscape. With just a few prompts, these chatbots can provide new clients with intake forms, answer basic questions about the law, and – in some cases – even fight parking tickets. While we’re still quite a ways off from fully sentient robolawyers, the rise of these AI chatbots presents unique opportunities for law firms – as well as a few risks. So how can a chatbot revolutionize your practice? What tasks can a chatbot take off your plate? And what risks do you need to be aware of before using one? Here’s what you need to know.

What are Legal AI Chatbots Capable Of?

While they’re not yet advanced enough to replace human lawyers, legal AI chatbots can tackle a variety of tasks ranging from administrative functions to filings and more. Tom Martin, Founder and CEO of LawDroid, told the ABA Journal in a podcast that legal chatbots can perform tasks like creating new legal documents, handling client intake, or acting as a virtual receptionist. Martin says a great place to start with AI chatbots is with lead capture, as it enables lawyers to capture more business and become more efficient with client onboarding.

While early days, there are already many interesting use cases for legal AI chatbots, for instance;

  • DoNotPay can help consumers to contest parking tickets 
  • Spellbook can review contracts and suggest new language 
  • FlowXO can help lawyers get paid by handling client payments in a chat
  • LISA (Legal Intelligence Support Assistant) can help users craft non-disclosure agreements 
  • LawDroid can help users to incorporate businesses
  • BillyBot, a UK chatbot, can help UK consumers to find the right barrister or solicitor for their matter
  • SoloSuit can help consumers respond to debt lawsuits, reply to collections letters, and even compel arbitration in a debt matter
  • When integrated with ChatGPT, Appara (that’s us!) can help you search for missing clauses that aren’t in your precedent sets

Clearly, chatbots have come a long way from their early days. While a chatbot cannot think for itself (yet), these specialized legal AI programs prove that chatbots are very capable of taking a great deal of work off a lawyer’s plate.

Where Do Legal AI Chatbots Go Wrong?

While legal AI chatbots are great for tasks like client intake and answering questions, they’re not infallible. Chatbots like ChatGPT are vastly popular with professionals in a wide array of industries, but they have critical flaws when it comes to important matters.

For instance, every so often, ChatGPT will give a wrong answer (or “hallucinate”) when asked a question. According to US bank Morgan Stanley, ChatGPT will continue hallucinating for years to come. While ChatGPT frequently gets questions right on the first try, the fact that it hallucinates means lawyers cannot fully rely on it as an independent AI. Rather, it requires human input and supervision to ensure it gives correct answers.

There are also significant data privacy and security concerns around legal AI chatbots. Artificial intelligence systems train themselves on, and refer to, vast amounts of external data – data which may contain sensitive personal information about people or organizations. Without proper safeguards in place, unauthorized third parties could access this data and use it for nefarious purposes.

Furthermore, there also exists the potential that an AI chatbot could accidentally infringe on someone’s intellectual property rights. As Jeremy Glaser and Lorena Niebla write in JD Supra, “AI tools…are developed based on large datasets that include publicly available text data, social media posts, and web pages, to generate new content. This can lead to unintended infringement of patents, trademarks, or copyrights.”

All of this means that AI chatbots require a certain degree of human supervision and, at times, intervention. Chatbots are not currently advanced enough to rely on them as one would rely on a staff member; they require fact-checking and hand-holding that staff do not need.

Still, chatbots do present certain advantages for forward-thinking law firms that are savvy enough to make use of them in the right way.

Incorporating Chatbots Into Your Practice

There are several possible applications for chatbots in legal practice that don’t create risks.

One of the easiest ways to get started with a legal AI chatbot is by having it act as a digital receptionist during off hours. By offering a chatbot receptionist, you can help potential new clients find the information they need in minutes instead of making them wait to talk to a person. You can program a chatbot to answer simple questions like “Where is your firm located?” or “what time does your office open?”, creating a seamless client experience at any time of the day or night.

You could also use chatbots internally as research assistants. Chatbots are experts at picking up on specific keywords, making them an ideal way to sort through case law and find the precedents you’re after. Chatbots like CoCounsel by CaseText can easily sort through legal research to help you find the case law you need.

Legal AI chatbots are already seeing use in firms like PricewaterhouseCoopers, where 4,000 of the firm’s lawyers are piloting use of a chatbot for matters like due diligence review and regulatory compliance. 

Legal AI chatbots come in all shapes and sizes, and there’s no shortage of possible applications for these lawbots. While chatbots do present some risks if left completely unsupervised, smart and forward-thinking lawyers can leverage them to accelerate case research, craft documents faster, and even get paid any time of day or night. Though these chatbots cannot replace a human, they are continuing to evolve – and they have their place in a 21st-century legal practice. While there’s no telling what kind of chatbot will arise next, one thing is certain: The lawbots are here to stay.

Are you using a chatbot in your legal practice? What tasks are you having it tackle for you?

P.S. Want to see a legal AI chatbot in action? Check out Appara’s new ChatGPT integration to discover how you can save time and reduce errors in document creation! Start your FREE trial of Appara today.

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