Study Shows Mixed Results For Law Students Using AI on Final Exams

A recent study conducted at the University of Minnesota has shed light on the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on law students’ performance in final exams, revealing both positive and negative outcomes.

The research, led by Minnesota law professor Daniel Schwarcz and University of Southern California law professor Jonathan Choi, focused on 48 students enrolled in two law courses: Introduction to American Law and Legal Reasoning, and Insurance Law.

These students were given final exams both with and without access to GPT-4, a state-of-the-art language model developed by OpenAI.

The findings indicated that the use of AI significantly improved performance on multiple-choice questions, with students experiencing a 29 percentage-point increase in scores compared to exams taken without AI.

Notably, low-performing students saw a substantial 45 percentage-point boost in their exam scores when utilizing AI.

However, the study also revealed that AI did not lead to higher scores on the essay portion of the exams. Moreover, high-performing students saw a decline of about 20 percentage points in their scores when using AI, suggesting that the technology may have had a counterproductive effect for this group.

According to Schwarcz and Choi, these results suggest that AI could have an equalizing effect within the legal profession, potentially narrowing the gap between elite and non-elite lawyers.

Schwarcz highlighted the possibility that AI access may have led high-performing students to rely too heavily on the technology, potentially undermining their independent legal reasoning skills.

He also noted that the study indicates AI could have a more significant impact on paralegals and younger attorneys, as tasks traditionally handled by them could increasingly be performed by AI technology.

The study adds to a growing body of research examining the role of AI in legal education and practice, emphasizing the need for further exploration into its implications for the legal profession.

As the legal industry continues to evolve, the integration of AI technologies is likely to play a significant role in shaping the future landscape of legal education and practice.