England: Judges allowed to use ChatGPT under new guidance

England: Judges allowed to use ChatGPT under new guidance

Judges can use generative AI technology like ChatGPT to assist in producing judgments but should not use them for legal research, landmark new guidance in England and Wales sets out.

The new judicial guidance on AI states: “Judges are not generally obliged to describe the research or preparatory work which may have been done in order to produce a judgment. Provided these guidelines are appropriately followed, there is no reason why generative AI could not be a potentially useful secondary tool.”

Produced after consultation with judges, the guidance – which runs to eight pages – suggests that AI tools can be useful in summarising large bodies of text, writing presentations and composing emails and memoranda.

It simultaneously discourages the use of AI for legal research, except “as a way to be reminded of material you would recognise as correct”, and legal analysis, as “the current public AI chatbots do not produce convincing analysis or reasoning”.

The guidance also provides tips for recognising AI-generate text, in particular highlighting that they can often use American spelling or refer to overseas cases, or sometimes refer to cases using US-style case citations.

The cross-jurisdictional judicial group which produced the guidance is led by Baroness Carr of Walton-on-the-Hill, the Lady Chief Justice of England and Wales; Sir Geoffrey Vos, Master of the Rolls; Sir Keith Lindblom, Senior President of Tribunals; and Lord Justice Colin Birss, Deputy Head of Civil Justice.

In a statement, they said: “We would like to thank all those who responded to the consultation and to the members of the cross-jurisdictional working group who have assisted in producing the guidance document.

“The guidance is the first step in a proposed suite of future work to support the judiciary in their interactions with AI. All work will be reviewed as technology continues to develop.”

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