ChatGPT, an artificial intelligence chatbot developed by OpenAI, has garnered much attention since its launch in November 2022. The program has the capability to generate text that closely mimics human writing in response to a given prompt, and its application has spanned across a range of fields from customer support to legal research.
In an academic context, the conversation often revolves around how students are using the program to write their essays, final exams, and other assignments (Take a look at our recent Impact post In Re: ChatGPT). As a result, many educational institutions have established specific prohibitions on using the chatbot, with Best Colleges even publishing a list of bans. However, I think there is real value in ChatGPT for law students–as long as you use it appropriately.
“Used in the right way, ChatGPT can be a friend to the classroom and an amazing tool […], not something to be feared.”– Adam Stevens, History Teacher
As a language model, ChatGPT is using statistical techniques to determine the probability of a given sequence of words. As a result, I’ve found that it makes far less mistakes when you are supplying the information it needs, rather than simply asking it questions. The program is not perfect, so sometimes it also takes a bit of regeneration or reworking the prompt to get the best outcome. With that in mind, here are a few ways to utilize ChatGPT as a law student.
Be sure to check your school’s individual policy as well.
- Summarizing Classes
During the Covid-19 pandemic, many law schools established recording systems for class, which have remained post-lockdown. If your recording program, such as Panopto, generates transcripts, you can use them to summarize class. Simply copy and paste the transcript into the text bar. Longer classes may need to be done in stages. It seems that ChatGPT has decreased the amount of characters it accepts since last semester (hopefully longer inputs will be an added feature in the future or on ChatGPT Plus).
Prompt suggestion: Please summarize this class transcript in 20 bullet points:
- Making Flashcards
You can use your notes and outlines to create flashcards for exam studying. Instead of spending time determining what questions and answers to create, ChatGPT can pull out pertinent information and design them for you. Retrieval practice is proven to be more useful than rereading your outlines, but oftentimes creating flashcards is a daunting task. Either write out the generated flashcards yourself if you find the writing process helpful, or you can add the ChatGPT outcome to a flashcard customization software like Quizlet.
Prompt suggestion: Turn these notes into flashcard style questions with concise answers and label each flashcard:
- Case Briefs
Chat GPT even knows how to create a case brief. If you have Connected Casebook or a PDF version of your textbook, it can take the copied case text and it will outline the facts, issue, holding, reasoning, and significance. As of now, it can do shorter cases that take up about 5 pages in my books. Since ChatGPT does not seem to have access to Lexis or Westlaw databases, it struggles to brief more niche cases that aren’t readily available online.
Prompt suggestion: Create a case brief for this case:
- Writing Tool
It can also give suggestions for synonyms and sentence structure, as well as answer questions about definitions and grammar. I find that once you get used to using ChatGPT for this purpose, it is more efficient than switching between Google and other program tabs.
Prompt suggestion: What are synonyms for _______ and their definitions
When completing basic research or trying to better understand class material, ChatGPT can function as a useful search engine. For example, you can ask ChatGPt for sources that include a short summary and link. Now your research starting points are organized and accessible in one location.
Prompt suggestion: Can you suggest ten sources for learning more about ________ with a one sentence summary and include the link address?
This should go without saying, but you should never use ChatGPT to generate documents or parts of documents that you submit as your own work in a class. For example, as a writing tool, it’s fine to use it for synonym suggestions or to suggest an improvement in sentence structure, but not to write the sentence for you. Likewise, it’s fine to use it to help define a particular term you’re struggling with to help you understand it better while studying, but not to write an answer you submit on an exam or as part of a memo.
I would also strongly caution you not to take everything ChatGPT writes at face value. It can–and often does–get things wrong. As this field advances, the program will likely improve, and you may even discover other artificial intelligence models that are better geared towards students. For now, I recommend using it as a starting point and confirming details with other sources.
Fiona Maguire is a third-year student at BC Law. Contact her at email@example.com.