Generative AI
18 April 2023

What do Australian law school leaders think about ChatGPT/Generative AI?

Published on 18 April 2023

We ended the Centre for Legal Innovation's Generative AI (GAI) Roundtables last week with two wonderful sessions with Australian law school leaders on 31 March 2023. 

It was encouraging to learn that law schools (and their universities) have GAI (and particularly ChatGPT) as a priority and, that this encompasses much more than academic integrity, although that is still pretty much at the top of the list. Like the other sector groups we have chatted with so far, experimentation with or incorporation of GAI is patchy i.e., not everyone is at the same stage. The impact of GAI on the higher education sector is broad and deep – it’s already transforming faculty/school and university-wide internal management practices, processes and systems; their external outputs, the courses and programs; and all the digital and human resources needed to bring these changes to fruition. 

There’s a lot to unpack in this transformation…a lot! There are opportunities for unprecedented (and critically important) multi-disciplinary/intra faculty/school collaborations – it’s a chance to take big leaps forward – but, it’s not going to be easy! The significant and increasingly urgent need for upskilling/reskilling of people remains THE biggest potential blocker. 

In this Roundtable series, we have heard repeatedly that GAI will change legal work and the roles of every stakeholder in the legal ecosystem. For law schools, that means curricula won’t be designed, developed or assessed the same way; it won’t even look the same (think visuals and not text); content will increasingly focus on gaining experience vs knowledge transfer; and humanity will be at the core of all problem solving and critical thinking. Teachers and teaching law have changed! 

It would be easy to focus just on the impact of GAI on teaching. It’s not confined to that – it’s completely changing research at universities too. Researchers and researching have changed! 

The burning issue for law schools now is reassessing and finding their new role on the learning continuum. And, it’s not the same continuum! The burning question for universities, law schools, and their teachers, is how they add value along the way? And, that will require redefining value! 

What we know for sure right now is that we won’t get legal education from here to where it will need to go without significant short, medium and long term COLLABORATIVE planning, something that these legal educators were well aware of and rapidly advancing plans to bring to fruition. 

Huge thanks to Ann-Maree David for facilitating these two Roundtables for us and to our amazing contributors! 

Fourteen BIG takeaways for me from this session: 

1.      ChatGPT is a useful tool for a first draft for simple straight forward tasks. This increases productivity, takes away the mundane, and allows you to spend more time on things that need it. But there are limitations. You need to know what data it is drawing from (content and date) and check outputs. It is a not a set and forget tool. 

Examples of where it is being used in law schools included: for course summaries, outlines and topics; translating complex text to more digestible; generating questions for students; generating text from ideas; create structure for a book/research; as a research assistant to pull a list of cases/citations.

2.      Policies on the use/application of GAI are emerging in Universities and law schools. These incorporate but are not limited to academic integrity. There are different approaches being taken to authorising the use/application of ChatGPT for teachers, researchers AND students. 

a.      Some universities have banned ChatGPT, others fully embraced it, and others allowed it at a university-wide level and encouraged/supported the development of nuanced applications by/in different schools/faculties. Some have permitted its use for certain activities if fully disclosed e.g., as a research tool, but not for other activities e.g. take-home exams. 

b.      For teachers, GAI/ChatGPT used to create syllabi, content, questions, or giving feedback, must be fully disclosed. 

c.      For researchers, GAI/ChatGPT used to review text, create bibliographies, find resources, create end/footnotes, lists of citations, or content, must be fully disclosed. And, as an aside, how are legal journals/publishers dealing with this? 

d.      For students, GAI/ChatGPT used in answers to assessments must also be fully disclosed and that can require the student to specify what they vs ChatGPT contributed to the answer. Content contributed by ChatGPT must be contained within quotation marks and, if it is used to improve language/text in any way, that too much be disclosed. 

e.      Regardless of the approach, and with the understanding GAI/ChatGPT is being used more and more in business/legal practice (e.g. the impact of products like Microsoft Copilot were mentioned here), it was universally accepted that GAI/ChatGPT will eventually be fully integrated into internal university/school management/admin practices (processes and systems) as well as its external outputs, courses and programs - this is likely to evolve strategically and roll out operationally over time.   

3.      Training in GAI/ChatGPT for students: some law schools have provided student support/assistance on the application of ChatGPT in student assessments. These included compulsory/voluntary modules explaining what it is, how it works, how to use it (e.g., cite as a reference), raised and explained ethical, bias and IP issues, so students have that awareness, understanding, and knowledge when using it for research/assessment purposes – these sometimes incorporate a badging system so teachers/students also know they have completed this module. This supports e.g., the academic integrity policies/practices of these universities. 

4.      Training in GAI/ChatGPT for academics: some universities are providing training programs for their academic staff on the use and application of GAI/ChatGPT AND encouraging staff to experiment with it in their teaching. At some universities, these programs are mandatory. 

5.      Training in GAI/ChatGPT for governing boards/bodies of universities and all the stakeholders in legal education: it was noted that training for these stakeholders is critical to their understanding of the changed legal work environment and consequently the development of a contemporary regulatory frameworks that supports the demand for new/different legal education. The best practice approach identified to achieve this was to create a collaborative, safe learning environment, where everyone is focussed on finding a workable solution and way forward. 

6.      Law schools have started to experiment with ChatGPT in content, delivery, and teaching of courses. Examples of where it is being used in law schools included: document/clause/submission drafting; generating tutorial questions; experimenting with different types of assessment e.g., demonstrating legal knowledge and application by comparing, analysing and explaining differences between a document drafted by ChatGPT and another precedent; using video case studies which students watch, analyse, and then explain the legal concepts/laws that apply; showing the response from ChatGPT to a question or case analysis and asking students to critique it. 

7.      Changing law school (university) assessments is much more than just changing the medium or media. For example, if assessments can’t be text based, multiple choice, essays or take home/online exams, it will take more time to review alternatives like videos or hold vivas – these budget, staffing, and even governance/structure implications need to be understood, discussed, and managed. 

8.      As GAI continues to unfold, it is providing the opportunity to ask and answer some BIG questions that go to the essence of what legal education is or is not AND what skills law schools need to teach. 

a.      As this equation changes, it’s important to reflect on the impact of what’s coming out, staying in, and what’s being emphasized in legal education. If GAI strips out the mundane/routine tasks like due diligence and document review, does that also strip out foundational knowledge that law students need? 

b.      Legal education will become less about acquiring knowledge and more about applying it but, this requires context. Will that mean law students should be taught exclusively through experiential learning? Does that mean the return of article clerkships? How will/can the pros and cons of article clerkships be resolved in any new iteration? How does that type of learning/work environment serve the considerable number of law students who do not wish to practice law? How will the context combine human and digital “teachers?” 

c.      Skills teaching will need to focus on developing the trusted advisor - critical thinking and problem-solving skills remain foundations for this but now in the context of human centred design. It will be increasingly about asking the right questions and connecting the dots.The higher legal skills that require human input and judgement like mooting, negotiation, and mediation will remain important. Also critical, will be focusing on things like empathy, creativity, legal project management, persuasion, ethics, integrity, and digital literacy - not just in using tech/AI tools but being able to ask questions to verify they have been applied to clean data, ethically, and without bias (forensic enquiry). 

9.      Likewise, teachers AND researchers will need to determine what value they add, where, why and when. 

a.      For teachers, where ChatGPT can now generate a syllabus, deliver a lecture, take text and turn it into a video, and create a training program in any language, there are significant implications for skills and staffing e.g., one digitally literate contract teacher could create a course for every law school in Australia. The focus in this example moves the discussion away from being teacher-centric to being topic and student-centric. 

b.      For researchers, if GAI/ChatGPT can generate research proposals, generate PhD hypotheses, draft research grant applications, draft research reports/outputs…in minutes (for professorial research/PhD candidates/capstone projects for an honours student), then what’s the new role of researchers and the function/application of their outputs? How does this impact the value/standing of a research-based qualification? How, where and when will that change the funding of research, the funding of universities from research, the value of researchers and PhDs, and the rankings of universities based on research outputs? 

10.  GAI/ChatGPT has the potential to increase/enhance access to legal services by providing a tool that consumers (clients) can use directly. It’s like providing a digital legal assistant to everyone. This might change the view clients have about lawyers i.e. if they can access the knowledge/information they need without a lawyer, then they might respect the role less and not understand why they were ever charged so much for that information. However, it is important to again note that ChatGPT is not always accurate and underscores the need for lawyers albeit in a different role, at a lower cost, and less often. Complex, bet the company legal work will fall outside these observations i.e., bespoke work will require lawyers. 

11.  Roles in the legal ecosystem have changed. GAI will provide the opportunity to reassess and enhance paralegal roles by stripping out the routine and mundane. It will also level the playing field between lawyers – everyone will have access to information/knowledge. 

12.  What happens to law students in the middle of a legal education transition? At the moment, most lawyers in practice have been trained the same way, they have evolved from that training to a new way. For law students now, there won’t be that transition. If tech/AI takes over all the work that early career lawyers learn from, law students will enter practice at a different point, with some but not all of the skills they need and, they will be launching their careers from a different starting point.  

Three different entry points into legal practice have emerged:  

  1. experienced practitioners in transition; 
  2. law students now moving through the transition; and 
  3. law students in the future who will commence work after the transition. 

More time needs to be spent on supporting and bridging any gaps for the “law students moving through the transition” group (current law students) because they are most vulnerable and will be entering a work environment that is still defining the gaps! For these students also, what they see may not be what they signed on for, which could result in fewer students entering legal practice. 

13.  It’s important not to default to the hype by anthropomorphising tech rather than seeing it as a tool. AI is not artificial or intelligent. It is about large language models (LLMs), data, and analytics. If we think of tech as a tool, then we will also understand the need to use it safely, legally, and require it to be reliable. 

14.  It’s important not to forget the uncertainty and concern GAI/ChatGPT is creating for current law students about their employment opportunities and prospects. Providing information, support, and raising awareness about how the legal world in transforming and, especially introducing and incorporating tools like ChatGPT into law school curricula (it can e.g., easily be incorporated into the Priestley 11), goes a long way towards supporting/helping students manage their concerns and working through these changes. 

We will also hold Roundtables with PLT leaders, law school clinicians, and law students so, if you have an interest in legal education, there is still lots more to come! 

About the Author 

Terri Mottershead is the Executive Director of the Centre for Legal Innovation (Australia, New Zealand and Asia-Pacific) (CLI) at The College of Law. Terri collaborates internationally with leaders of legal businesses supporting them in identifying trends, developing strategies, and transforming their capabilities and practices to deliver legal services/products in the new legal ecosystem. She is the instigator, designer and developer in chief of CLI’s global initiatives, networks and programs including the Legalpreneurs Lab and its podcast series, The Legalpreneurs Sandbox. Prior to joining CLI, Terri was a practising lawyer, founded start-ups on three different continents, and established or led the in-house talent management departments for global firms and associations in Asia and the US including Lex Mundi, the Inter-Pacific Bar Association (IPBA) and DLA Piper LLP (US).