I recently published a post that discussed client pressures on law firms to take public stands on social issues. These issues are often controversial and can be tricky for law firms.
In the process of conceptualizing the post, ChatGBT hit the news. I decided to use it least to get started. The results were interesting and showed both the power and limitations of the tool. I ended up with two posts. The post you are reading shows how I used—and didn’t use—ChatGPT. The other was the actual substantive post on the relevent issues.
To get started, I asked ChatGPT whether law firm clients are demanding law firms take positions on social issues. Here is what it had to say:
“In today’s socially conscious society, it’s not uncommon for individuals and organizations to take a stand on various social and political issues. This trend is no different in the legal industry, where clients are beginning to demand that their law firms also take a position on important social issues.
“One reason for this shift is that clients are becoming increasingly aware of the influence and power that law firms have in shaping society. They recognize that law firms have the resources, expertise, and connections to make a significant impact on issues such as climate change, human rights, and diversity and inclusion. As a result, clients are calling on their law firms to use this influence to promote positive change and make a meaningful difference in the world.
“Another reason for this trend is the growing expectation of corporate social responsibility among consumers and stakeholders. Companies and organizations are expected to not only make a profit, but also to make a positive impact on society. This expectation is also being applied to law firms, with clients expecting their legal counsel to align with their own values and beliefs on social issues.
“In addition, there is a growing awareness among clients that taking a stance on social issues can benefit the law firm in terms of attracting and retaining talented employees, as well as building a strong brand and reputation. The legal profession is becoming more diverse, and a significant number of young lawyers are attracted to firms that prioritize social issues and make a positive impact on society.
“However, it is important to note that taking a stance on social issues can also be a tricky business for law firms. They must balance their duty to their clients with their own values and beliefs, and must also consider the potential legal and ethical implications of taking a position on a particular issue. Law firms must be transparent and honest about their position, and must also be prepared to defend their stance if challenged.
“In conclusion, as clients become increasingly socially conscious, they are demanding that their law firms take a position on important social issues. This trend is driven by a growing awareness of the influence and power of law firms, an expectation of corporate social responsibility, and a desire to attract and retain talented employees. While taking a stance on social issues can be challenging, it is an opportunity for law firms to make a positive impact on society and to build a strong brand and reputation.”
What ChatGPT May Have Missed
Ok. A little long and wordy and, while a start, misses some subtle points that I know about from experience.
ChatGBT correctly focuses on the impact law firms may have when they take public positions. What it misses is the disruption that disagreements amongst partners on taking such positions can have.
There is a real business risk to law firms that take public positions on controversial issues.
ChatGPT also misses the very real practical issue: some clients will applaud the position taken but, some will hiss and maybe even vote with their feet. Law firms risk pissing off clients who disagree with the positions taken. There is a real business risk to law firms that take public positions on controversial issues. And don’t for a minute think that those partners whose clients might have interests won’t fight law firm management tooth and nail.
So it’s a difficult spot for law firms.
My Revisions to ChatGBT Version
After reflection, I rewrote what ChatGPT had written as part of my substantive. Here’s the result of my rewrite:
It is becoming more and more common for individuals and businesses to take public stands on various social and political issues. This trend is certainly evident in the legal industry, where clients are beginning to demand that their law firms also take positions on important social issues.
One reason for this shift is that clients are becoming increasingly aware of law firms’ potential influence and power in shaping society. They believe—rightly or wrongly- law firms have the resources, expertise, and connections to significantly impact a wide range of social issues. As a result, clients may call on their law firms to use this influence to promote the change they might desire.
Another possible reason for this trend is consumers’ and stakeholders’ growing expectations of corporate social responsibility. This expectation is, in turn, being applied by clients to their law firms, with clients demanding their law firms as institutions align with their own values and beliefs on social issues.
Granted, there is the opportunity for law firms to positively impact society and build a stronger brand and reputation.
But taking a stance on social issues is tricky for law firms. They must balance their duty to their clients with the values and beliefs of the law firms’ partners—the business owners. Law firms must also consider the potential legal and practical implications of taking a position on a particular issue. There can be a real business risk to law firms that take public positions on controversial topics.
What ChatGPT Couldn’t Do
I then added to the revised ChatGPT version my thoughts and analysis of the issues based mainly on what I had seen and experienced as a partner in a large law firm. That addition added richness to the analysis of the issues. Again, here is my substantive post.
Bottom line, yes, ChatGPT is a wonderful tool. It got me started. It provided some helpful background and served as a springboard for an introduction. It saved me some time.
ChatGBT couldn’t replicate what I did because only I had the insightful experiences.
But it couldn’t supply what I experienced. What I personally knew about and lived and how that experience led to insight and analysis. ChatGBT couldn’t replicate what I did because only I had the experiences.
(The other problem was that the ChatGPT portion was not necessarily in the same style as I write which took some time to try to change).
So we need not necessarily fear ChatGBT. At present, its impact may be akin to that of the calculator on mathematics. Sure, calculators replaced some of the more mundane functions and freed us from memorizing lots of tables. It freed us from simple errors that could jeopardize entire projects (or at least ensure I would never rise above a C in algebra). It enabled mathematicians to tackle more challenging and complex problems. But calculators didn’t replace mathematicians.
ChatGBT is a tool we can use to help us focus on what we do best. That’s all it is.
At least for now.