ChatGPT Legal Departments


The rapid advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) have revolutionized the way we interact with technology, and one of the most potentially impactful developments in this field is the emergence of generative AI, a method that uses deep machine learning algorithms to generate new content, including text, images, and even videos. The roll out of ChatGPT, a public-facing generative AI engine, just months ago has already allowed multitudes of people to experiment with the technology and test the limits of what content can be produced by the mix of human-input and AI algorithms.

The potential impact of ChatGPT and generative AI on how business is conducted in numerous industries has been explosive. Not surprisingly, the legal industry has cast a very wary eye on what widespread use of these technologies within law firms and corporate legal departments could mean for service delivery, data security, and even pricing.

To dig deeper into this subject, the Thomson Reuters Institute has conducted surveys and follow-up interviews with corporate lawyers in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada around their attitudes towards generative AI and ChatGPT within their legal departments to better measure department members’ awareness and adoption of these technologies as well as their views on potential risks. This report follows an earlier survey report on law firms’ views and usage of ChatGPT and generative AI.

Our survey research on the corporate legal sector, summarized in this report, indicates that a vast majority of lawyers within corporate law departments are well aware of generative AI and ChatGPT, and a majority said they believe it eventually will greatly impact how legal services are delivered in the future, even though the technology may not be mature or reliable enough yet.
One senior legal officer at a large corporation says the legal team there is currently looking into creating a private version of the technology that would allow for similar use while being more secure. “We’re not shutting our eyes to this,” the officer says. “We’re working on a solution that would work for us.”

While a majority of corporate law department respondents say ChatGPT and generative AI can be used for legal work today, fewer think they should be used within legal departments. And a majority of survey respondents also noted some level of risk concern over use of these technologies either within legal departments or by their outside law firms. Yet, many also acknowledged that AI-related technologies — however impactful and capable — are simply tools that still need a human touch to work to maximum effect, especially in the area of law.

“AI is only as good as its programming and input,” said one corporate legal respondent. “It is not capable of reasoning or correctly applying the law to the circumstances.” Clearly, as this survey report underscores, ChatGPT and generative AI may indeed revolutionize how business is conducted in corporate law departments — possibly sooner than many predict — however, these tools will still need a steady, legally-tuned mind at the helm to make sure things stay on course.


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