Valley Village, CA Legal Research Tools, AI & ChatGPT

Valley Village, California 91601

Legal Research In Valley Village, CA

Traditional Legal Research Tools

I've been tracking free law resources on the web since the dawn of the internet. Here are the best resources that can give you free access to statutes, case law, procedures, and forms at the federal, state, and local levels.

Federal Law & Federal Courts

  1. CaseText Library of Codes and Regulations:  (LC Rating: 10 out of 10)
    This free directory "/library" is now a well-hidden, free, free (for now) resource. They offer the following resources
  2. Justia:  ( LC Rating: 9 out of 10)  Owned and operated by Tim Stanley, a pioneer of the "free law" movement, Tim has offered consumers free access to federal case law and statutes since the dawn of web browsers, first as the founder of FIndLaw, and then, for the past 20 years, as the owner and operator of Justia.

State Law (California)

  1. CaseText Library of State Codes and Regulations:  (LC Rating: 10 out of 10)
    • Codes and Regulations
      The 50-state collection "/library" is a fantastic repository of up-to-date, free (for now) state codes for every state, including California. It's the best resource out there, hands down, for primary law research.
  2. Nolo: Nolo has been writing plain English summaries of consumer law since 1971. It's still is the best place for:
  3. NCSL (The National Council of State Legislatures) This site offers outstanding 50-state surveys of laws on a variety of topics, where you can find information on:
  4. NCLC (The National Consumer Law Center) This is primarily a paid site for attorneys, but they offer a few free, consumer-facing 50-state surveys of laws on the following topics:
    • California Debt Collection Laws
    • California Evictions Rules
    • California Covid 19 Restrictions
    • California Wage Garnishment issues
  5. Justia

County & Local Law

Local Law

  1. Municipal Codes: This excellent free website has codes for almost every major city and town.

Local Government Boards, Agencies and Districts

  1. BallotOPedia: Find out who's on your local school board, and when your next local election is.
  2. DemocracyByZipcode.com: ( aka LegalConsumer.com/democracy); Local information to help citizens stay involved in government at all levels and know how to communicate with those who represent them.

AI Tools & ChatGPT:
Do They Work for Legal Research?

The Next Generation of  “Access To Justice” Tools For Consumers: 
ChatGPT, Claude.ai, & Googe Bard

If you’ve read any news lately, you have heard about how generative AI tools like ChatGPT will change how America works.

Consumer-facing AI tools like ChatGPT 4 (Microsoft/OpenAI), Claude 2.0 (Amazon/Anthropic), and Google Bard have tremendous potential to streamline legal research and change how non-lawyers handle their routine legal affairs.

But these tools are also prone to mistakes in their current incarnation

Example: when asked for a bio of myself:

  • Claude.ai came up with an elaborate bio; unfortunately, 95% WRONG.
  • ChatGPT 3.5 also got 80% WRONG.
  • ChatGPT4 got it 98% RIGHT

So how do you use a tool that's only right "most" of the time?

What You Need To Learn:

  • How to word your prompts to minimize the chance of wrong answers
  • How to ask the same question of several tools, compare their answers, and look for inconsistencies
  • How to get it to think outside the box and warn you about things you're not asking about
  • How to ask it to try again if you think the answer might be wrong.
  • Things NOT to try!
    • These tools are adept at making up bogus case law that does not exist.
      • So please don't trust any cases they claim to have found unless you're SURE they exist.
      • Some tools know their limits and are smart enough not to attempt an answer, 
      • But some confidently assert absolute fiction and invent cases, judges, and statutes that don't exist!!

Suggested prompts for learning about law and procedure in your region:

We've tested and tweaked these prompts to get useful answers. You can learn what we've learned in using these tools. We'll give you tips on how to research different areas of law.

And learn where these tools do not do a very good job.

But that may change, sooner rather than later, as this technology quickly advances.

Categories of Prompts

Still Flawed, but Improving

This LLM (Large Language Model) technology is still new, and its capabilities have only recently hit a level where it's proving to be a genuinely useful tool. And the pace of improvement is increasing faster than most people had predicted. And they're not finished. It should be interesting.

As of this writing (July 2023), here are the three main tools we tested: 

  • ChatGPT 4 is much better than ChatGPT 3.5 on questions about law and procedure.
  • Google Bard can do a capable job of summarizing recent changes announced in the law, like the frequently changing status of student loan law,
    • which you can then research further or ask Bard to go into depth.
  • Claude.ai is an alternative to ChatGPT 4 and hasn't been fully ripened, and may not be ready for prime time.

Which is better? Claude versus ChatGPT 4?

At this point, ChatGPT4 is a clear winner in most cases.

The Limits of Generative AI Tools and How To Overcome Them

In this section, you'll learn how to use ChatGPT 4.0 to help you access the legal system and government in ways you never could before.

And we’ll show you several ways to guard against the risk of a bogus answer, which can happen, if you’re not careful with how you word your prompts.

ChatGPT is a powerful missile. You have to be careful where you aim it.

And you'll need to do some rudimentary checking of the answer it gives you.

It's not hard. We'll show you how. 

What is ChatGPT?

We’ve all seen autocomplete as you type in a Google search; it guesses what you’re about to type, and often it’s right. ChatGPT is autocomplete, taken to an extreme, based on what it has learned by digesting “nodes” of information from browsing the internet.

So, ChatGPT is as intelligent (or as dumb) as the internet is. And it is nothing more than guessing the next word, next word, next word, based on everything it has read online.

Sometimes, it guesses the wrong next word, which can send it spiraling out of control, making up information that is not true as it blindly charges ahead with the next word, next word, next word, etc... They call these "hallucinations." They happen. You have to be on the lookout for them. 

But overall, the chances are you'll get a  good answer— or at least a very useful starting point for further research — from ChatGPT 4, especially if your question concerns a routine and known procedure.

ChatGPT Can Sound Confident And Be 100% Wrong!

You’ve probably heard stories of ChatGPT’s ability to “hallucinate” and say things confidently that are 100% wrong.

There was the famous case reported of an inept lawyer, inexperienced with ChatGPT, who foolishly relied on made-up case law without checking to see if the cases were real, and embarrassed himself and exposed himself to sanctions for citing case law that was complete fiction, invented by ChatGPT! 

Don't be that guy!

We'll show you how to check your answers, which that lawyer could have done without much additional effort.

So.... take what ChatGPT gives you with a grain of salt and check the answer. We'll show you how.

How is ChatGPT when it comes to the law?

Just because it can occasionally be wrong, it would be very wrong to think that ChatGPT can be of no help and that you shouldn't use it.

Conversely, ChatGPT 4.0, (don't use 3.5) is right, far more often than wrong. And it's the quickest way to get a jumpstart on your legal research.

ChatGPT 4 scored very high on the LSAT and other measures of legal competence. (Do not use version 3.5 for legal research because the risk of incorrect information is too high. )

Local Info May Be Scant

The quality of the information on the internet determines the quality of the answer you get from ChatGPT. So, it stands to reason that questions about settled law concepts will likely be answered accurately. 

The more local you go, the less information there is to survey on the web, so the answer is more likely to contain random (I.e., wrong) information or information that ChatGPT has made up. 

For this reason, it’s a good idea to always ask for “citations” and “case law” for any local laws you are asking about. This way, you can look up those sources and see, first, if they exist, and second, if they stand for what they are cited for and whether they’ve been updated since 2021 (the date that most ChatGPT systems are based on)

(Note: There is a closed AI system offered for lawyers by CaseText that promises more accurate and complete results regarding the law.)

Check Sources

Recently, ChatGPT 4.0 will often give you a local link to a current website with more information about the local procedure or law you are asking about. Be sure to check it.

Note: Caude.ai will also give you links, but in our experience, only about 2% of their links are real. The rest go nowhere or are irrelevant content. 

Google Bard, we've noticed, is quite good at providing useful, up-to-date links to local law and procedure, even in rural counties.

AI Tools Available to Consumers

Open AI / ChatGPT
v. 3.5 (free) / v.4.0 ($20/mo)

Right now, ChatGPT version 4 from OpenAI is the best bet for Consumers hoping to use ChatGPT for their do-it-yourself legal tasks.

Version 4.0 costs $20 per month but will give you better answers than 3.5 and when accuracy is critical, as it is in law, it's worth the extra money. 

Google Bard

Google Bard has potential because it’s based on Google’s searching of the internet, and Google does a good job of finding accurate information. It's still working out some things. 

One nice thing about Bard is its ability to answer questions about recent changes in law, such as announcements about new student loan repayment programs.

Microsoft Bing

The AI Chat works only with the Microsoft Edge browser. We haven’t tested it much, but we like that it gives you links to the websites on which it based its answer so that you can verify the information.

 


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5 Tips For Using ChatGPT 4.0 To Research Local Law and Procedure

1. It's all about the prompts, about the prompts...

ChatGPT is only as smart as you prompt it to be. 

  • If you ask a general question, you'll get a general answer.
  • If you ask a specific question, you'll get a specific answer.
  • But if you ask a specific question that it doesn't know, it may give you an answer anyway and it may well be wrong

So it's important to ask questions that make sense and are in sufficient detail to get quality answers, and even then, you have to check them.

How you ask the question matters a lot. The more you phrase your question using legally precise terminology, the more likely you will get a good response.

2. Always ask for "citations," and be clear about whether you mean URLs or statutes, and then check to see if the citations are real

One tip is to ask for citations, which sometimes will give you just a URL to a website. If you want citations to California law or statutes, it's better to spell that out. If you want both, say so. more...  



ChatGPT Prompts for Bankruptcy and Debt Collection Law & Procedure In Los Angeles County, California

What's This?

ChatGPT is a  powerful tool, capable of giving consumers a wealth of useful information -- or a bunch of malarky if you don't use it carefully.

In this article, we'll share with you the prompts that work best for researching bankruptcy and debt and credit law and procedure that applies to  Valley Village, CA. 

We can't guarantee you'll get accurate results, but we're pretty sure that if you copy and paste these prompts into ChatGPT 4.0, you'll get useful results to speed up your research. 

The prompts are grouped by "use cases,"... that is, situations you might want to research.  

ChatGPT 4.0 Prompts on Debt and Bankruptcy Law

Here's a starter set of prompts that we believe will yield useful results for your location.

We offer prompts about:

  • Foreclosure procedures in California
  • Processes for attachment or removal of liens from property, and the procedures for how to "perfect" a lien, and how to follow local procedures to look for defects in liens that may be on your property. 

This article assumes you have read the articles on this site about the possible shortcomings of ChatGPT and how to check the responses that ChatGPT gives you. more...  



ChatGPT Prompts for Probate and Property Transfer Procedures When Someone Dies in California

ChatGPT 4.0 Prompts on Probate Procedures

We’ve assembled a starter set of prompts that will yield useful results for your location.

This article assumes you have read the articles on this site about the possible shortcomings of ChatGPT and how to check the responses that ChatGPT gives you.

It also assumes that you are paying the $20 monthly required to use ChatGPT 4.0. We do not recommend using the free version 3.5 for legal research because it is too unreliable. Version 4.0 is different and is still not perfect but 10X better. 

In our experiments, these prompts yielded useful, correct responses in the vast majority of cases. And that’s worth a lot. And with some checking, you can improve those odds and learn if the law has been updated. Using ChatGPT, and checking its results with other online research tools, can make it a very reliable way to quickly learn about state and local inheritance laws and procedures. more...  



5 Best Free Online Legal Research Tools for Self-Represented Consumers

The JusticeTech and Access to Justice tech fields are growing by leaps and bounds. 

I've been involved in this effort since I graduated from law school 40 years ago. We we are now at a brink of a new age of access to justice with technology offering many opportunities to increase access to justice like never before.

We will try to keep this article up to date with the latest tools that we know of that are available to help people navigate the legal system.

Here’s a list of our favorites.

LawHelp Interactive

Part of a LegalServices initiative to help self-helpers in every state gain access to automated forms and information that can help them handle their routine legal matters.

Nolo.com

Even though Nolo is now owned by KKR hedge fund, it still manages to put out good books in the spirit of its founders, back in the 80s and 90s when I worked for this pioneering organization that led the development of self-help legal products in the USA. 

eForms.com

This site has arisen from nowhere and now offers many do-it-your-self forms in all 50 states. In addition, they offer helpful articles and videos that explain simple non-contested procedural aspects of law. more...  



Researching Student Loan Hardship Cases Using Google Bard

At first, Google Bard seemed quite good when we asked it to find bankruptcy judges that have ruled in favor of student loan debtors in 'undue hardship' cases, it found quite a few. But once we started checking, we found that 4 out of every 5 cases were not real. (We have left the original Bard reports for illustration and formatted the incorrect information with Strikethrough formatting).

Why does the judge's name matter when asking about undue hardship cases?

Why did we ask the question this way? Because "undue hardship" is a concept like "negligence," each case involves a mix of law and fact. 

In the federal courts, trial judges are given great deference in findings of fact. A determination that "undue hardship" exists is a finding of fact, assuming the correct legal standards are applied. 

In such cases, the judge you have for your bankruptcy case has much to do with your likelihood of success as your facts; the judge must be inclined to rule in favor of people like you in undue hardship cases like yours. Not all judges are alike.

So, if you're considering attempting an undue hardship discharge and decide to file, check whether any bankruptcy judges in your district have ever ruled in favor of a student loan case.

We decided to try Google Bard to see if it could help. Here's what happened... more...