As schools opened their doors this fall and students entered their classrooms, many brought generative artificial intelligence (AI) with them. Generative AI has sparked debates about its role in different settings, including in the education context. This Editorial Note will explore the debate about using generative AI in legal education. Its goal is to stimulate discussions among students, professors, and legal professionals about this emerging technology, as part of the new article series: “Discussing Generative AI Law and Policy.”
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Generative artificial intelligence is a type of artificial intelligence (AI) capable of producing text, images, or other media using generative models. Generative AI tools, such as the widely recognized ChatGPT, have been trained on extensive text data to generate human-like, text-based answers and fall under the category of large language models (LLMs). Generative AI is said to have reached a “tipping point” in late 2022, when ChatGPT became accessible to the public for the first time.
Since that moment, generative AI has been adopted across various industries, introducing new possibilities and potentials. In the legal industry, the trend of legal technology is experiencing rapid growth, with major law firms like Allen & Overy actively investing in the development of generative AI for legal purposes.
Nonetheless, as with other emerging technologies, generative AI comes with certain risks. Specifically, incorporating AI into legal practice presents challenges such as the “black box problem,” which can hinder lawyers from keeping their clients informed. Further, the risk of “AI hallucinations” became evident in a recent incident where lawyers got fined for submitting a court filing that cites AI-made-up facts. Consequently, it is reasonable for employers to anticipate that the next generation of lawyers will possess proper AI skills. But how are law schools reacting to this trend?
In the context of education more generally, institutions, such as New York City public schools, have rolled out policies forbidding students from using generative AI due to its potential use for cheating, which can impede students’ learning progress. However, there are educators who take a different stance. They argue that the technology “is here to stay” and thus should be incorporated into curricula so that students can learn how to use it effectively and responsibly. Just as calculators enabled the teaching of advanced math like calculus and algebra, embracing generative AI in classrooms will assist teachers and students in delving into more advanced subjects.
Generative AI in Legal Education
To date, rules regarding the use of generative AI vary from one professor to another, and only a few U.S. law schools have issued a policy at the institutional level.
Starting at the “entrance” to law school, the University of Michigan Law School has taken the lead in forbidding the use of this technology from that point. Considering that writing abilities are crucial attributes and skills for aspiring lawyers, the school mandated applicants to attest that they hadn’t used a generative AI tool when drafting their personal statement in the recently concluded Fall 2023 admission cycle.
“I got in! Now can I use ChatGPT?” The use of generative AI in legal education has both supporters and critics. In general, supporters argue that the analogy of calculators could also be applicable to law school settings and teaching methods. They believe that generative AI has the potential to lessen the workload related to services for law professors, thus enabling the development of more advanced teaching methods. A professor at Northwestern Law encourages legal educators to utilize this emerging technology as a chance to transform class assessments into tasks “that can’t be accomplished by simply giving a prompt to ChatGPT,” but rather “require students to initially use generative AI and then employ their abilities to iterate and enhance what the system provides.” Since law schools should primarily emphasize critical analysis when grading exams and assignments, the lack of this capability in generative AI should not be a concern for law professors.
At the same time, many believe that the concerns related to the use of generative AI for cheating should not be overlooked, especially since ChatGPT has passed final exams at a selective law school and even aced the bar exam on its own. Thus, at institutions like U.C. Berkeley School of Law, using generative AI tools in exams and graded assignments is prohibited school-wide, unless professors provide an exception or students use it merely for grammar checks.
Author: Attamongkol Tantratian
S.J.D. Candidate, Indiana University Maurer School of Law
*Title suggested by Claude 2 AI; This article serves as the 6th Editorial Note of the Maurer Global Forum.