New Zealand Law Society - Beware of legal citations from ChatGPT

Beware of legal citations from ChatGPT

ChatGPT is an artificial intelligence chatbot which can be a useful tool for obtaining basic legal guidance and information. ChatGPT provides a conversational interface that allows users to ask questions in natural language.

With access to copious amounts of online legal material and the ability to draft legal documents quickly, lawyers have been tempted to use ChatGPT. However, many responses have been labelled imperfect and at times problematic, and the use of an AI tool for law-related services may raise regulatory and ethical issues.

The Law Society Libraries have recently started receiving case requests from practitioners which have been generated after submitting a query to the chatbot. The cases appear real as ChatGPT has learnt what a case name and citation should look like, however, investigations by Library staff have found that the cases requested were fictitious. ChatGPT uses a statistical model based on probability to guess the next word, sentence and paragraph to match the context provided by the user. It will fabricate facts and sources where it does not have access to sufficient data. So next time you use ChatGPT for a legal query, just remember the cases cited in its response could be fake; made up by a well-intentioned AI Tool. For legal research results from real people, take a look at what our experienced Law Library teams have to offer.

Example query using ChatGPT demonstrating how authentic the returned results look, even when citing cases that don’t exist:

 Is there a leading case in New Zealand on economic disparity under the Property (Relationships) Act?

Yes, the leading case in New Zealand on economic disparity under the Property (Relationships) Act is called "G v H" (2003) 21 FRNZ 525. In this case, the Court of Appeal considered the issue of economic disparity in the context of a claim for relationship property division under the Property (Relationships) Act 1976.

In this case, the appellant argued that she had suffered significant economic disparity as a result of her contributions to the relationship and sought an unequal division of relationship property. The Court of Appeal held that economic disparity is a relevant factor to consider in determining the division of relationship property and that a departure from equal sharing may be justified in certain circumstances.

The Court also set out a framework for determining whether economic disparity exists and whether it justifies a departure from equal sharing. This framework considers factors such as the contributions of the parties to the relationship, their respective earning capacities, their standard of living, and their respective financial needs.

Overall, the G v H case remains the leading authority in New Zealand on economic disparity under the Property (Relationships) Act and provides guidance on how the courts approach this issue.