Written by: Paul Wilkins, Chief Litigation and Strategy Officer at Dudley DeBosier Injury Lawyers
It’s an understatement to say that the arena of personal injury law is as diverse as the clients we represent. As plaintiff attorneys, we often find ourselves on our toes, dealing with an array of cases, from car wrecks and falls to defective products and trucking accidents. The vast and unique spectrum of these cases demands us to continually evolve and learn, often presenting us with first-time experiences. For the junior attorneys and staff members in our firms, the learning curve can be steep, especially when confronted by opposing counsel who specializes in the specific case at hand. Yet, a tool exists that can assist us in addressing this gap: artificial intelligence, specifically, ChatGPT.
Preliminary Case Analysis and Drafting Pleadings
Imagine this: A junior attorney is handed a case involving a defective product, something she has never encountered before. A search on ChatGPT, given its comprehensive dataset, can yield a plethora of information, from the basics of medical device litigation to the specifics of the device in question. Armed with the essential facts that support a case against the manufacturer, the attorney can turn to ChatGPT for a draft of pleadings needed to initiate litigation. With an effective prompt, including the facts of the case, the causes of action intended to pursue, and a reference to jurisdiction where the suit will be filed, ChatGPT will provide the attorney with examples of a complaint that complies with the procedural rules applicable to that jurisdiction. With a properly crafted prompt, providing the language model with the required context, circumstances, tone, and desired formatting of the response, attorneys can take advantage of the vast dataset that ChatGPT has been trained on to provide an effective starting point for the work that needs to be done.
Research & Discovery
Building on the training that went into creation of the complaint, ChatGPT can be called upon to generate potential interrogatories and requests for production of documents based on the factual issues and legal elements raised by the allegations of the complaint. As always, the response will have to be fine-tuned to fit the specifics of the case.
Perhaps the most important task in the development of a case in litigation is the preparation required to take a deposition. Our firm expects lawyers to prepare a “hit list” in advance of taking a deposition. We consider an effective hit list to be one that identifies the broad topics, or “hits,” that need to be addressed with the deponent, which then allows us to compile documents, exhibits, and lines of questioning to get the hits that we’re after. Based on extensive prompting and an in-depth chat, I can confirm that ChatGPT understands the concept of a hit list. Here is an example of a series of prompts that I use to get ChatGPT to give me the hit list, a basic set of questioning in furtherance of the hit list, and more specific lines of cross-examination to nail down the hits:
- Prompt: My case arises from the following material facts: [list facts in as much detail as you feel necessary for ChatGPT to understand your case and anticipate the issues that arise from the case]. Here are the allegations contained in the complaint that I filed on behalf of the Plaintiff [paste allegations]. I am preparing to notice the deposition of a corporate representative of ABC Co. Generate a deposition notice that complies with F.R.C.P. Rule 30 that includes all topics that I need to cover with the corporate representative based on the facts of the case and the allegations of the complaint.
- Prompt: Now, I need to formulate a “hit list,” as that term is commonly used in the context of personal injury litigation, of hits that are potentially at stake in the corporate representative’s deposition.
- Prompt: Now generate a set of questions to ask the corporate representative that are designed to discover all information and evidence that may relate to the hits that are included in the hit list.
- Prompt: With respect to line of questioning on the company’s investigation of the collision that is the basis of this case, it is expected that the representative will acknowledge that the company’s investigation went no further than to obtain a copy of the police report of the collision, and that no disciplinary action was taken against the company’s driver. Generate a set of leading questions to ask that representative that are designed to have the representative admit to the consequences of a company not determining the root cause of a collision caused by one of its drivers, as well as the consequences of not taking disciplinary action against a driver who causes a collision.
We all have tools and processes that help us to keep track of the facts and law applicable to a case. Perfecting the framing and sequencing of the optimal trial story that results from the facts and law requires analyzing the facts and law from every perspective and point of view. ChatGPT can be trained to follow the systems and processes that you have in place to aid in this analysis, as well as to suggest improvement to those systems and processes. Through in-depth and probing chats with ChatGPT, you can simulate the most brainstorming sessions that have your most experienced lawyers engage in to develop their trial strategy.
When it comes to trial preparation, ChatGPT can offer advice on voir dire questioning, help to devise lines of cross-examination, and assist in formulating compelling trial narratives.
Consider a junior attorney prepping for his first jury trial. The lawyer knows that there are templates and examples of opening statements the firm’s experienced trial lawyers have found to work best. By prompting ChatGPT with the examples and templates, together with the facts of his case, ChatGPT can provide the lawyer with a draft opening that is in keeping with the framing and sequencing of the firm’s tested and proven openings. By continuing the chat with ChatGPT, the lawyer can adjust the tone, timing, and framing of the opening simply by telling ChatGPT that those things need to be adjusted.
Having the opening in hand, the lawyer can then have ChatGPT suggest what to cover with potential jurors in voir dire that will help to identify characteristics, biases, and expectations that will guide the lawyer through the voir dire process.
Every interaction with ChatGPT can be an opportunity to learn. Less experienced attorneys can gain insights into areas of law they’re unfamiliar with, gather relevant case law, and explore potential strategies. This ability to learn on-demand, combined with the firm’s internal training and mentorship, can help to close the knowledge gap and increase confidence in dealing with specialized opposing counsel.
A Note of Caution
It’s essential to remember that while ChatGPT is an incredibly useful tool, it is just that: a tool. It does not replace the judgment, creativity, and empathy that human lawyers, paralegals, and legal assistants bring to the table. Its outputs need to be verified for accuracy, and its legal advice should always be corroborated with thorough independent research and legal analysis. It can’t replace the nuanced understanding that an experienced attorney has, but it can certainly help to level the playing field.
With artificial intelligence and specifically ChatGPT, we have an ally, a research assistant, a brainstorming partner, and a legal tutor. By embracing this technology, our firms can not only meet the ever-growing demands of our varied practice but also empower our less experienced team members, providing them with a solid foundation upon which they can build their own legal expertise.