If you entered law school and colloquially used the phrase QED from time to time, you probably enjoyed — and still enjoy — legal writing. For those of you who were more familiar with the works of Eminem than Euclid, adapting to the formulaic dictates of IRAC was probably a hell of a hurdle. I remember passionately wishing for a way to formalize my writing without having to experience how viscous conforming to the expected format made writing feel. Like all of the improvements dearest to our hearts, the solution I was looking for was made available right when I was no longer in the market for it. From ABA Journal:
ChatGPT, an artificial intelligence chatbot that can speak and write like humans, can be weak on facts but may already be a better wordsmith than some attorneys, according to David Kemp, an adjunct professor at Rutgers Law School.
“If you’re asking it to organize several concepts, or are struggling to explain something in a way that’s really understandable, it can help,” says Kemp, who also is the managing editor of Oyez, a multimedia website focused on opinions from the U.S. Supreme Court.
The technology, created by the research lab OpenAI, seems to prefer active voice, as does Kemp. He introduced ChatGPT in an advanced legal writing class and plans to include it in a summer course about emerging technology.
You had me at concept organization and stamping out passive voice. I know that being weak on facts appears to be a caveat, but let’s not forget — these are law students we’re talking about. They’re still figuring out the difference between res ipsa loquitur and Trent Reznor; with some guidance, the training wheels can get them further than their own bumbling through an expired edition of Strunk and White.
That said, law students should see this as more of a cure some than a cure all.
However, some [schools] fear that it could detract from students learning good writing skills.
“If students do not know how to produce their own well-written analysis, they will not pass the bar exam,” says April Dawson, a professor and associate dean of technology and innovation at the North Carolina Central University School of Law.
Additionally, using tools such as ChatGPT for graded assessment assignments may be an ethical violation if students are not producing their own work, Dawson adds.
And before you pull a “How would they know?” — remember, the writing is formulaic. Any legal writing professor worth their weight in hornbooks should be able to tell that the 1L legal memo you’re trying to pass off as original content is a pastiche an algorithm sutured together. Don’t get clever and you won’t have to be taught a lesson. Go pick up that copy of S&W you threw away earlier. Best of luck.
Can ChatGPT Help Law Students Learn To Write Better? [ABA Journal]
Chris Williams became a social media manager and assistant editor for Above the Law in June 2021. Prior to joining the staff, he moonlighted as a minor Memelord™ in the Facebook group Law School Memes for Edgy T14s. He endured Missouri long enough to graduate from Washington University in St. Louis School of Law. He is a former boatbuilder who cannot swim, a published author on critical race theory, philosophy, and humor, and has a love for cycling that occasionally annoys his peers. You can reach him by email at email@example.com and by tweet at @WritesForRent.
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