ContractsProf Blog

Editor: Jeremy Telman
Oklahoma City University
School of Law

Monday, December 19, 2022

ChatGPT and Law School

Last week, Farhad Manjoo's op-ed in The New York Times explored the capabilities of ChatGPT, a computer program with some pretty decent writing chops.  For those interested, a readable explanation of the technology can be found here.  The column chooses as its theme a question that has occupied us more than once on this blog: What is a sandwich?   We have discussed the issue in connection with disputes over whether a sandwich shop's restrictive covenant with a shopping mall precluded the mall from leasing space to a burrito shop.  Is a burrito a sandwich?  Endless listserv debates later, Taco Bell sought to capitalize on our enthusiasm for the topic by launching a commercial addressing the debate.  

Farhad Manjoo asked ChatGPT whether a hot dog is a sandwich. It provided a hedged response.   He then showed how the program dealt with other matters, such as abortion and the Electoral College.  It's rather mealy-mouthed on hot-button issues.  "Some people think this; some think that."  That sort of thing.  At Sid DeLong's suggestion, I gave it the following prompt

Write a 500 word post for the ContractsProf Blog about Chatbots in law school
RobotHere is its response

As technology continues to advance, chatbots are becoming increasingly prevalent in various industries, including law. These AI-powered virtual assistants are designed to mimic human conversation and can assist with tasks such as answering questions, providing information, and even handling simple legal matters. In the realm of legal education, chatbots have the potential to revolutionize the way law students learn and interact with the legal system.

One major benefit of chatbots in law school is their ability to provide 24/7 assistance to students. Law school can be a demanding and stressful experience, with students often facing tight deadlines and a heavy workload. Chatbots can help alleviate some of this burden by providing immediate answers to common questions, such as how to access certain resources or where to find certain case laws. This can save students valuable time and allow them to focus on more pressing matters.

Another advantage of chatbots in law school is their potential to enhance the learning experience. Many chatbots are equipped with natural language processing capabilities, which allows them to understand and respond to complex questions and requests. This can be particularly useful for law students who may not have access to a human tutor or mentor. By interacting with a chatbot, students can get personalized feedback and guidance on their legal research and analysis, which can help them develop their skills and knowledge.

Chatbots can also play a role in simulating real-world legal situations. Some chatbots are designed to simulate client interactions, allowing law students to practice their communication and problem-solving skills in a safe and controlled environment. This can be a valuable addition to traditional legal education, which often relies on theoretical exercises and case studies rather than practical application.

Despite the many potential benefits of chatbots in law school, it's important to note that they are not a replacement for human interaction and guidance. Chatbots are a tool, not a substitute, and they should be used in conjunction with other forms of legal education. However, when used appropriately, chatbots can be an effective supplement to traditional teaching methods and can help law students better prepare for their future careers.

It's worth noting that chatbots are not a new concept in the field of legal education. Many law schools and legal organizations have already implemented chatbots as a way to provide information and assistance to students and clients. For example, the American Bar Association has developed a chatbot called "Ask ABA," which allows users to ask questions about legal issues and receive answers from trained attorneys. Similarly, the University of Ottawa has implemented a chatbot called "Ask Ottawa," which provides students with access to legal resources and information on a variety of topics.

While chatbots have the potential to revolutionize legal education, there are also some potential challenges and limitations to consider. One concern is that chatbots may not be able to fully understand or address the nuances of complex legal issues. While they can provide general information and guidance, they may not be equipped to handle more specific or complicated matters. Additionally, chatbots may not be able to provide the same level of personalization and individualized attention as a human tutor or mentor.

Despite these challenges, chatbots have the potential to be a valuable asset for law students and legal professionals. By providing round-the-clock assistance, enhancing the learning experience, and simulating real-world legal situations, chatbots can be a powerful tool for legal education. As chatbot technology continues to evolve, it will be interesting to see how they are integrated into law school curricula and the legal profession as a whole.

I originally asked it to write 1000 words, but ChatGPT actually gets boring and repetitive pretty quickly.

In addition, I wanted room for a follow-up question: Can chatbots be used to cheat on law exams?  ChatGPT's response was a bit preachy:

HAL_9000It is generally not advisable or ethical to use chatbots or any other form of technology to cheat on exams. Cheating on exams undermines the integrity of the educational process and can have serious consequences, including academic penalties and damage to your reputation.

That being said, it is possible that some students may attempt to use chatbots to cheat on law exams by seeking answers to exam questions or using the chatbot to complete assignments or exams. However, it is likely that such attempts would be detected and penalized by the educational institution. Most institutions have strict policies in place to prevent cheating and have systems in place to detect and deter cheating behaviors.

In addition, it is important to keep in mind that the use of chatbots or other forms of technology to cheat on exams does not ultimately benefit the student. Cheating does not allow the student to gain a true understanding of the material and does not prepare them for future legal practice. It is much more beneficial for students to put in the time and effort to study and understand the material on their own, rather than attempting to cheat their way through exams.

I have never given a take-home exam, and now I certainly will not do so.  I for one welcome our new robot overlords.

Commentary, Teaching, Web/Tech | Permalink


The chatbots response is unsettlingly good. Try a difficult legal question, such as explaining the battle of the Forms or whether, given certain facts, a seller is excused for impractability of performance.

Posted by: John Wladis | Dec 19, 2022 10:55:28 AM