Use of ChatGPT in the workplace – some thoughts on the opportunities and safe usage

Use of the new and powerful generative AI tools presents life science businesses with great opportunity but needs careful use as some examples from the legal profession show.

After some very interesting conversations with life sciences clients on this issue it is clear that ChatGPT will prove to be a very valuable tool for workplace productivity and to further research and business aims – but only if employees can be supported to become educated users.

ChatGPT has been a sudden and runaway success as far as its private use is concerned and it is too familiar to need any detailed explanation of what it is and how it works. But two less prominent features of these large language models are worth mentioning:

  • Firstly, the initial training of the ChatGPT Bot has been carried out by US-based engineers based on a vast corpus of open access data, largely in English and predominantly with US-based web domains (and it does not distinguish between copyrighted and uncopyrighted material, nor does it identify information protected by other intellectual property rights).
  • Secondly, they continue to learn by inter-reacting with users, so any inputs from users could well end up as data accessible to other users.

That means that if workers are allowed to use ChatGPT to help with their workplace tasks, Life Sciences businesses must be sure that they understand its limitations and how to interpret the results it generates. Also, they need to be very careful about the data that is being inputted.  Dare I say it as an employment lawyer, a policy and some training on its use would be a good place to start.

Drawbacks to be aware of – lessons from the legal profession

One obvious limitation is that its answers are based on free data, and as far as I’m aware (I don’t claim to be an expert) it doesn’t have access to specialist data available only to paying subscribers. In my field – apart from the obvious fact that it can make things up – that is a major drawback. We felt a certain amount of schadenfreude reading about the Litigant in Person who presented case law authorities that had been provided by Chat GPT to a judge, only for the judge to point out that one of the cases was entirely fictitious and the quotes from the other cases were completely irrelevant (even though the cases themselves were relevant).  As lawyers we are quite comfortable using a search engine as a way of finding news and recent policy developments but wouldn’t dream of using it to find the current version of a piece of legislation or to source specialised legal commentary.

That said, its uses are wider than returning natural language-based results in different formats, which are likely, at least currently, to draw predominantly on US-based sources (and only sources in existence pre-2021).  A Court of Appeal judge (who specialises in Intellectual Property law) recently confirmed he had used ChatGPT-generated content in his judgment.  He used it to generate a summary of an area of IP law, which he carefully checked but which he described as “jolly useful”.  Clearly any usage needs an experienced specialist to review the content carefully.

Other potential uses can be inferred from what we know about the data it “crawled” as part of its training. For example, researchers based at the University of Norway have reported this includes a “surprising” amount of patented data.

That leads us to an even more important drawback: asking it a specific question to solve a work-based problem could well result in giving away your business’s confidential information, which it will then use for anyone else. Even the fact your company is recorded as having asked a question can be used.  For that reason alone, some employers have banned its use for workplace tasks, at least until they understand more about its limitations or at the very least ban the use of the company’s name and any specific references to its business.


I believe that intelligent use of Chat GPT – and other similar forms of generative AI – can be a real enabler for life sciences businesses. Progressive employers will I am sure find a way to use it to benefit their businesses, or risk being left behind by others that do.

I expect many of your employees are excited by it too and already using it (maybe even in work).  It has suddenly arrived, and it isn’t going away.  So, it’s best to have a plan that’s kept under review.


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