ChatGPT and AI: A Valuable or Destructive Tool for Attorneys?

Jul 25, 2023 | , , , , , , , | News

Nowadays the use of artificial intelligence (AI) has become increasingly popular in various industries, including the legal profession. The artificial intelligence chatbot (ChatGPT) was launched in November 2022 and quickly generated widespread interest for its ability to enable users to refine and steer conversations toward desired formats, styles, details, and even languages.

However, a recent incident has highlighted the potential dangers of relying too heavily on AI technology.

Defamation ChatGPT AI

In this instance, the attorney argued a case before the Johannesburg Regional Court, concerning a woman and her right to take legal action against her body corporate for defamation. 

Legal representation for the trustees of the body corporate argued that a body corporate could not be sued for defamation, whilst the representation for the woman argued the contrary, claiming that there were several former judgments that gave answer to this question. 

The matter was postponed by the presiding Magistrate, providing the parties with sufficient time to acquire the necessary information required, to prove their respective cases. 

In the months leading up to the hearing, the parties soon realized that the cases and citations sourced from ChatGPT did in actual fact relate to separate cases and did not support the matter at hand. Thus provided no assistance with the defamation suit. 

This fact was later brought to the Court’s attention, leading the Magistrate to rule that the attorney had not intended to mislead the Court, but that he/she was simply overzealous and careless. 

No further action was taken against the attorney, aside from the punitive cost order awarded. 

The Magistrate was of the view that the embarrassment associated with this incident was punishment enough. 

It is important for the public to realize that ChatGPT is trained on historic data and relies heavily on human interaction to acquire new facts. The danger being, that humans may provide incorrect and/ or inadequate information, resulting in the bot learning false responses to questions posed. 

Legal representatives relying on or making use of AI or ChatGPT for legal research, drafting correspondences, answering legal questions, delivering legal opinions or pleadings, etc. need to bear in mind that the bot is incapable of correcting its own logic and reasoning and may lead to a scenario where it provides you with untrue answers posed in a plausible and believable manner. 

While AI is a valuable tool to have at your disposal, proceed with caution. As we have seen, over-relying on AI without doing your due diligence may have serious consequences.

The content does not constitute legal advice, are not intended to be a substitute for legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Kindly contact us on or 021 556 9864 to speak to one of our attorneys.


Zahnri Griebenow

Zahnri Griebenow

Zahnri joined CK as an associate in April 2023.

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