Here’s What OpenAI’s Chatbot Thinks of Pro Bono.

Kristen Sonday
Paladin
Published in
5 min readDec 1, 2022

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I had 15 minutes before daycare pickup tonight, so I started a quick conversation with OpenAI’s new chatbot, ChatGPT, about pro bono and access to justice. Here’s what it had to say:

Me: Why is pro bono legal work important?

ChatGPT: Pro bono legal work, which refers to legal services provided by attorneys on a voluntary basis without charge, is important for several reasons. First, it helps to ensure that everyone has access to justice, regardless of their ability to pay for legal services. This is especially important for low-income individuals and communities, who may not be able to afford legal representation and may be at a disadvantage in the legal system. Second, pro bono work allows attorneys to use their skills and expertise to help those in need and to give back to their communities. Many attorneys find this work personally rewarding and feel that it is an important part of their professional responsibility. Finally, pro bono work can benefit the legal profession as a whole by promoting a positive public image and increasing public trust in the legal system.

Me: What is the biggest barrier to pro bono legal services?

ChatGPT: One of the biggest barriers to pro bono legal services is the lack of resources and support for attorneys who provide this type of work. Many attorneys are already busy with their regular caseloads and may not have the time or energy to take on additional pro bono cases. Additionally, pro bono work is often unpaid, so attorneys may not be able to afford to take on pro bono cases without sacrificing income. Furthermore, many attorneys may not have the training or experience to handle pro bono cases, particularly in specialized areas of law. To overcome these barriers, it is important for legal organizations and the legal profession as a whole to provide support and resources for attorneys who are interested in providing pro bono services, such as training, mentorship, and financial assistance.

Me: What are some systemic changes we should make to our legal system to improve access to justice?

ChatGPT: There are many potential systemic changes that could be made to improve access to justice in the legal system. Some possible examples include:

  1. Providing more funding and support for legal aid organizations that provide free or low-cost legal services to underserved communities. This could include increasing government funding for these organizations, as well as encouraging private attorneys to donate their time and resources to pro bono work.
  2. Implementing alternative dispute resolution (ADR) programs, such as mediation and arbitration, to provide more efficient and cost-effective ways for individuals and organizations to resolve legal disputes. This could help to reduce the backlog of cases in the legal system and make it easier for people to access justice.
  3. Expanding the use of technology in the legal system, such as by adopting online court systems, electronic filing systems, and AI-powered legal analysis tools. This could help to make the legal process more efficient and accessible, particularly for people who live in remote or rural areas.
  4. Reforming the criminal justice system to reduce mass incarceration and address issues of racial and economic inequality. This could include adopting policies that focus on rehabilitation and alternatives to incarceration, as well as addressing issues of police misconduct and bias in the justice system.
  5. Providing more education and resources for individuals who are involved in the legal system, such as by offering legal clinics and self-help centers, and providing more information about legal rights and procedures. This could help to empower people to navigate the legal system more effectively and to make informed decisions about their legal options.

Overall, improving access to justice in the legal system will require a combination of systemic changes and efforts by individuals, organizations, and the government to address the underlying issues that prevent people from accessing justice.

Me: What advice do you have for attorneys looking to get started with pro bono?

ChatGPT: If you are an attorney looking to get started with pro bono work, there are a few steps you can take to get started:

  1. Identify the areas of law that you are interested in and qualified to handle. Pro bono work can involve a wide range of legal issues, from basic legal advice to more complex cases, so it’s important to choose an area of law that you are comfortable with and that aligns with your expertise and interests.
  2. Research organizations and programs that provide pro bono legal services. There are many organizations, both nonprofit and government-sponsored, that provide pro bono legal services to underserved communities. You can contact these organizations to learn more about their programs and how you can get involved.
  3. Consider joining a pro bono program or network. Many legal organizations and bar associations have pro bono programs or networks that can provide support, training, and resources for attorneys who are interested in providing pro bono services. Joining a program or network can help you connect with other attorneys who are interested in pro bono work and can provide valuable guidance and support as you get started.
  4. Set aside time in your schedule for pro bono work. Pro bono work can be time-consuming, so it’s important to set aside dedicated time in your schedule to handle pro bono cases. This may require you to prioritize your workload and make adjustments to your schedule, but the rewards of providing pro bono services can be well worth the effort.
  5. Stay informed and involved. To ensure that you are providing the best possible legal services to your pro bono clients, it’s important to stay informed about developments in the law and to continue learning and growing as an attorney. This can include attending legal education seminars, participating in professional organizations, and staying up-to-date with the latest legal news and developments.

Overall, providing pro bono legal services can be a rewarding and fulfilling experience for attorneys. By taking the steps outlined above, you can get started with pro bono work and make a positive impact on your community and the legal profession.

Well played, OpenAI!

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Kristen Sonday
Paladin

Co-Founder, CEO @JoinPaladin. Partner @LongJump. World traveller. Wine and chocolate lover.