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Ignacio Cofone is the Canada Research Chair in AI Law & Data Governance at McGill University and currently the Robert Campbell visiting fellow at Oxford University (Magdalen).

Many university professors are concerned with their students using ChatGPT. But when teaching AI regulation and privacy law at McGill University, I have encouraged my students to use it. The reason: Teaching them how to use generative AI thoughtfully and ethically improves their writing, enhances accessibility, trains critical thinking and shows them the tools they’ll need when they leave the classroom.

Effective writing is fundamental for law students, and correct use of ChatGPT can improve writing skills. Generative AI can provide students with instant feedback on their writing, highlighting areas where they may need to improve clarity, coherence, or flow. It can help students make their arguments more concise and structure their essays more effectively. This immediate feedback loop can foster an iterative approach to writing that’s impossible without a personal writing coach, leading to better-written assignments.

When used as a tool for research and writing assistance, generative AI can level the playing field. It can help non-native English speakers, for example, with language comprehension and composition, ensuring that language barriers or unequal access to support systems do not hinder their academic performance. Students who have disabilities that lead them to require more time for assignments can also have that gap narrowed by the software, as it can instantly provide them with tailored summaries and examples of material.

Some worry that using ChatGPT will diminish students’ critical thinking, but the opposite can be true when it’s used thoughtfully – that is, when critical thinking is applied. Students can use the model as a brainstorming tool to explore different perspectives, encouraging them to consider the alternative viewpoints provided and to develop a more complete understanding of perspectives over an issue. By prompting students to engage in a sort of “dialogue” with generative AI tools, professors can enable them to better articulate opposing arguments.

Another reason to use generative AI in legal education is that doing so prepares students for a workplace that finds it useful. Automation plays an increasingly prominent role in legal practice, and lawyers who can use generative AI tools effectively are better equipped to navigate this shift. As a result, those who are proficient in using AI tools will have a competitive advantage in the job market and the workplace. Law professors who integrate these tools into their assignments can help their students develop skills that will be relevant in their careers. Students need to develop such technology-leveraging skills, just as they did with countless other technologies in the past.

The benefits extends to testing. This academic year, I allowed my students to use ChatGPT in their final exam, giving them guidelines on how to cite it appropriately. I then asked some students about the way they used it. It turns out that most of the students who obtained good grades had used ChatGPT to save time: to summarize material that they knew so they could edit the summary, to make their writing sharper under the time constraint of an exam, and to brainstorm opposing views. Most students who obtained low grades had used it to replace their work: to form connections across readings for them or find out about the law in an issue that they were unsure about. The exercise tested students on how to use a powerful tool in real-life settings similarly to how open-book exams test students on how to use physical and online material.

The integration of AI into legal education can equip students to excel in a working environment where they will need to use similar tools thoughtfully and ethically. The key advantage of generative AI for students is its ability to accelerate tasks. Generative AI can provide quick summaries of legal principles and precedents; accelerate the editing process; and mimic a personalized interactive exercise. This saves time and thus helps students focus on the most critical aspects of their work.

Ultimately, the goal of education is to equip students with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed beyond the classroom. Enabling students to use ChatGPT well aligns with this goal, helping them develop digital literacy and the problem-solving skills at the core of their education.

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