Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been dominating the technology conversation since ChatGPT’s launch in late November 2022. Trending headlines indicate that ChatGPT could pass the bar exam, take tests at law and business schools, and write/debug code. BuzzFeed, a popular news and entertainment site, announced it uses AI to “enhance” its content and quizzes. BankRate admitted using AI-generated content for its site (now paused due to negative press). Microsoft recently launched a new AI-integrated browser incorporating ChatGPT into Edge and Bing.
With the possibility of an AI revolution on the horizon, the discussion has naturally expanded to the legal profession. In December, Reuters asked whether ChatGPT would make lawyers obsolete (answer: not yet), and a quick Google Search yields plenty of additional articles about the legal profession and its relationship with AI following the launch of ChatGPT.
So, can ChatGPT take over writing your legal marketing and law firm website content? As is all too common in the legal profession, it depends. We asked ChatGPT if it was useful for legal marketing, and its answer was “Yes.”
What Is ChatGPT?
ChatGPT is a chatbot that conversationally interacts with users. It was created by OpenAI, an artificial intelligence research company, which now includes both nonprofit and for-profit entities operating under the OpenAI name.
In the simplest of terms, just ask ChatGPT a question, and it will provide you with an answer. What ChatGPT is really doing is determining what a readable answer could be, word by word, using its large language model and given its databases of documents. Stephen Wofram’s article “What is ChatGPT Doing … and Why Does It Work” offers an excellent (and somewhat technical) explanation of ChatGPT.
For example, we asked ChatGPT to “write a paragraph about California’s unfair competition law.,” and ChatGPT wrote this:
Business and Professions Code Section 17200, or the Unfair Competition Law, safeguards consumers in California from deceitful and illegal business practices. It enables individuals, businesses, and the Attorney General to seek injunctive relief and restitution for fraudulent or unjust business acts. The law’s comprehensive reach makes it effective against practices like false advertising, bait-and-switch tactics, and price fixing, offering crucial protection for consumers and businesses alike.
As far as basic answers go, that is pretty good. And it took about thirty seconds, which is faster than most people could type up a paragraph about any law. You can also give ChatGPT commands and offer criticism of its responses, which prompts the system to provide you with a new, updated response to the query.
Of course, ChatGPT is not always correct (more on that later), but the ease of use and flexibility of the service is a topic of conversation with everyone from consumers to marketers, programmers, researchers, and lawyers.
The Early Innings of AI and ChatGPT
Before we go into the pros and cons of using ChatGPT (currently at version 3.5) for legal marketing content, it is important to note that we remain in the early stages of AI content production. Late last year, ChatGPT opened this technology for general public use, but there are lots of changes ahead. In such a rapidly changing field, the specifics of this article will quickly become dated, although the general propositions will likely remain true.
ChatGPT gives responses based on the content it has analyzed, and while it has millions of pages used for its learning model, there is much more content out there it can index. By opening the service to the public, ChatGPT is also receiving real-world data and feedback on its answers. Then, ChatGPT received major funding from Microsoft, which is slowly incorporating the technology into various products across its platform. Over time, the data powering this AI will get better and better, and at the same time, the algorithm powering ChatGPT is continuously improving.
That said, ChatGPT is a language model. It is only as good as its data and does not understand the nuances of the U.S. legal system. However, as the platform continues to improve and expand, an additional layer of modeling may be added to teach the bot about the law. Other companies, such as FastCase, Lexis, and West, may too build onto the AI foundation laid by ChatGPT.
There will also certainly be competition, particularly from Google, which announced it is releasing its own chatbot, Bard, in the near future – possibly even by the time you read this article!
Pros of ChatGPT for Legal Marketing Content
Turning to the question of ChatGPT’s usability for legal marketing, there are certainly plenty of benefits for lawyers, provided that you read, check, and edit your AI-generated content. Learning to use ChatGPT requires one to be skeptical of the answers and always check the facts, but the benefits might just be a legal marketing game-changer.
For starters, ChatGPT can generate paragraphs of content within seconds, often creating what would take a human writer an hour or more to draft. These time-saving efforts can help a busy practitioner save on research and manual drafting time. And the pros of using ChatGPT for marketing content creation go beyond speed.
Ease of Use
ChatGPT is nothing if it is not easy to use. Simply type in an instruction or a question, and the answers readily flow. We asked ChatGPT to write a paragraph about personal injury law for a law firm’s website. In less than a minute, ChatGPT offered the following:
Personal injury law is a branch of civil law that focuses on compensating individuals who have suffered harm due to the negligence or intentional actions of another person or entity. This can include physical injuries, emotional distress, and property damage. Personal injury claims can arise from a wide range of incidents such as car accidents, medical malpractice, slip and fall accidents, and workplace accidents. If you have been injured in such a situation, it is important to consult with a personal injury lawyer to determine your legal options. An experienced attorney can help you navigate the complex legal process and negotiate with insurance companies to secure the compensation you deserve. Whether you are dealing with the aftermath of a serious accident or a minor injury, a personal injury lawyer can help you get the justice you deserve.
While not remarkably insightful, ChatGPT quickly offered a general paragraph complete with marketing language written in an easy-to-read manner. One could even imagine this paragraph as an introductory text on any number of law firm websites across the United States.
That is just the start! In theory, the sky is the limit. Want five ChatGPT-generated taglines for a criminal law firm in Los Angeles founded by a former district attorney?
- “Defending your rights, protecting your future”
- “Aggressive representation from a former prosecutor”
- “Insider knowledge for a strong defense”
- “Navigating the criminal justice system with confidence”
- “Experience the difference of a former prosecutor on your side”
Consistency is one of the most important aspects of branding, especially in a digital world. Consistency concerns certainly extend to written content, where law firms want to ensure they have a similar tone, style, and message across their digital properties. When the same AI platform is helping write all (or most) of your content, it is easy to achieve brand consistency.
You can also ask ChatGPT to write in different styles to match your tone and intended audience. As an illustration, we asked ChatGPT the question, “What is ChatGPT?” The platform’s response was relatively straightforward, boilerplate language:
ChatGPT is a pre-trained language model developed by OpenAI, one of the leading research organizations in the field of artificial intelligence. The model was trained on a massive dataset of over 8 million web pages and can generate human-like text for a variety of tasks such as answering questions, generating stories and summaries, and more. ChatGPT is based on the Transformer architecture, which has achieved state-of-the-art results on many natural language processing tasks, and is designed to handle conversational inputs, making it well-suited for chatbot applications.
As a follow-up, we told ChatGPT to explain the platform to a child and got the following answer:
ChatGPT is like a really smart computer friend that can understand and talk to you like a person! You can ask it questions, and it will do its best to answer them. You can also ask it to tell you a story, or write you a letter, and it will try to do that too. It’s kind of like having your own personal robot helper, but instead of doing things with its hands, it does them with words!
Then, we asked the robots behind ChatGPT to explain the platform to a lawyer. The answer?
ChatGPT is a cutting-edge language model developed by OpenAI, which utilizes deep learning techniques to generate human-like text. The model has been trained on a massive corpus of text data and can perform a variety of natural language processing tasks, including but not limited to answering questions, generating text, and summarizing information. As a pre-trained model, it can be fine-tuned for specific applications and has the potential to greatly enhance the efficiency and accuracy of language-based tasks in fields such as legal research and document analysis. The Transformer architecture underlying ChatGPT has been widely adopted and demonstrated state-of-the-art results on various NLP tasks, making it a highly promising tool for the legal industry.
ChatGPT does a wonderful job of crafting grammatically correct content. Where a human writer may introduce a type, stray comma, or grammatical error, ChatGPT consistently delivers a high-quality text that avoids most, if not all, of the common grammatical issues.
Cost Effective Scalability
The basic level of service for ChatGPT is currently free! This means law firms can save by allowing internal employees more time to focus on non-marketing tasks or even avoid spending money that would have gone to outsourcing content writing efforts to third-party writers. These savings can be critical when a lawyer is ramping up content production. Plus, ChatGPT is always available (except for occasional downtime due to system overload), meaning you can generate new content around the clock and virtually on demand.
ChatGPT has recently launched ChatGPT Plus, a paid version of the platform, for only $20.00/month, which offers priority access to the platform when there are many users online and other yet-to-be-announced features. In addition, Microsoft Teams Premium has integrated ChatGPT into its paid service.
Cons of ChatGPT for Legal Marketing Content
Despite the potential benefits of using ChatGPT to develop legal marketing content, there are glaring issues of which lawyers must be wary. For all of its human-like dialogue, ChatGPT remains a machine that cannot exercise human judgment.
ChatGPT is only as good as the dataset available to it. It scans a database of content on the web to determine answers to your queries, and sometimes it is blatantly wrong. For instance, accuracy is of the utmost importance when it comes to legal content, and legal marketing content is no exception.
Imagine you are a family lawyer in Mississippi writing about same-sex marriage for your law firm’s website. You would expect the basic legality of same-sex marriage to be accurate in your content. But when asked whether same-sex marriage was legal in Mississippi, ChatGPT started with a resounding no.
No, same-sex marriage is not legal in Mississippi. In 2016, the state passed a law allowing religious organizations and private businesses to deny services to same-sex couples, and the state constitution bands same-sex marriage. However, the U.S. Supreme Court in 2015 had legalized same-sex marriage throughout the United States, but Mississippi has not repealed its ban.
Even though the ChatGPT response does eventually recognize that the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in Obergefell v. Hodges, it does not seem to understand the basic concept of the Supremacy Clause or clearly present what this landmark decision means for the average American.
As we noted above, ChatGPT does not understand the U.S. legal system nor the relationship between the U.S. Constitution, federal law, state law, and the judiciary. Bottom line: You absolutely must check ChatGPT’s output for accuracy.
Duplicate Content and Copyright Concerns
Again, ChatGPT lacks human judgment. The platform analyzes data from millions of web pages when developing its answers to queries. The language model could generate content that is similar or identical to existing content. This would pose multiple potential issues for lawyers using the service.
First and foremost, if the generated content is identical to or too similar to existing copyrighted material, the law firm publishing this content on their sites may be subject to copyright infringement claims. If this duplicated content is presented as an original work, it may also raise general plagiarism concerns.
Additionally, duplicate content can cause significant problems for SEO. While Google and other search engines do not expressly penalize duplicated content in their search algorithms, they strive to serve original, relevant content to their users. The search engines do not want to show users multiple copies of the same material. This means that only one copy of duplicate content will likely rank well in search results. Thus, lawyers should certainly check ChatGPT content with a tool, such as Copyscape, to make sure it is original.
Language models like ChatGPT can perpetuate biases and stereotypes contained within the dataset. Even with the best of safeguards in place, the platform can become an echo chamber of sorts that amplifies inherent biases in the data on which it was trained. Thus, lawyers relying wholly on AI-generated content for marketing purposes may find themselves inadvertently perpetuating negative stereotypes or generating controversial content that actually drives business away from, rather than growing, their practices.
While lawyers should not share confidential client information in marketing content, the fact remains that there are privacy concerns with AI-generated content. For instance, ChatGPT is a learning platform, and it trains itself based on data input. If the model is trained on private or sensitive data, or the AI platform saves this data in some way, then there are certainly privacy concerns of which lawyers using the service should be aware.
Professional Responsibility and Ethics
Many jurisdictions have rules against misrepresentations to clients. For instance, it is well-known that under the American Bar Association Model Rules of Professional Conduct (which are mirrored by many U.S. jurisdictions), a lawyer cannot knowingly make misrepresentations to others in the course of their representation of a client. Similarly, Model Rule 7.1 prohibits making false or misleading communications regarding a lawyer’s legal services, which includes making a material misrepresentation of fact or law. Other ethical rules include nuances that prohibit misrepresentations and impose a duty of candor upon a lawyer.
AI is a new frontier of sorts for the legal profession. Without a clear answer, concerns remain that passing ghostwritten content (including AI content) off as the work product of an attorney who did not actually generate the content may impose an ethical conundrum that subjects a lawyer to attorney discipline.
Google on Rankings and AI-Generated Content
As demonstrated in the example above, ChatGPT can hold a written conversation with you that is sophisticated and similar to a discussion with another human. But what can it do for your online legal marketing efforts? In particular, can you use AI generated content and still rank highly on Google?
Google wants to rank the best content that is helpful to people. Period. Google does not care how it is made. Google has even explicitly said that it would not automatically penalize machine-generated content if it is helpful and created for people first, not just for search engine optimization (SEO).
However, that doesn’t mean you can use ChatGPT for all of your content generation efforts without a second thought. Instead, the issue for lawyers and legal marketers is more complex.
First, the law is a “Your Money or Your Life” subject in the Google Search Quality Rater Guidelines. The content absolutely must be accurate. As demonstrated above, ChatGPT does not understand how the U.S. legal system really works, and it makes mistakes. This is especially true on state law issues, where the platform seemingly has less particular data or only relies on the plain language of state codes and statutes without accounting for the legality and constitutionality of them.
Second, website SEO content needs to be original. As mentioned above, lawyers should always check AI-developed content for copyright and content duplication issues.
Finally, lawyers need to read AI-generated content and edit for flow, tone, and style. ChatGPT often uses descriptive terms that feel slightly off and make it obvious that the content was not written by a human.
While sophisticated technology like ChatGPT may make it seem obvious that you should consider almost effortless solutions for legal marketing content, it is critical to remain aware that ChatGPT is a helpful tool for creating first drafts, not final versions of content.
Final Thoughts: Why Should You Care?
In just a few short months, ChatGPT has revolutionized the conversation about AI in many professions. The legal profession is no exception, and it would take a book to cover all the ways ChatGPT and other similar AI could potentially impact the practice of law.
Likewise, the impact of ChatGPT on legal marketing, and particularly content development, remains to be seen. While it certainly offers benefits for a busy lawyer looking to grow her practice, it also comes with a lengthy list of challenges to remember. For now, ChatGPT is not ready to replace humans in the content creation process, but it can be a helpful resource for lawyers looking to streamline their legal marketing processes.
About the Author
Marina J. Wilson is an attorney working with the marketing team at Justia. She received her undergraduate degree from the University of Georgia and earned her J.D. cum laude from the Louisiana State University, Paul M. Hebert Law Center. She is a member of the Louisiana State Bar Association with practice experience in business litigation and a professional background in marketing and communications.