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  • Writer's pictureWilliam C. Little

Legal AI is Here: This is a "Truth or Dare" Moment for Attorneys!

It is widely predicted that the role of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the legal profession will only increase as times goes on. For example, Dr. Lance Eliot, a Stanford University Fellow and recognized expert on AI & Law, wrote in an October 2022 Forbes column, "An earthquake is coming, but few are preparing for it. Some don’t know that the earthquake is starting to rumble. Others think it won’t impact them. When the earthquake hits, only then is the AI legal-oriented acknowledgment going to light some bulbs."

"An earthquake is coming, but few are preparing for it. Some don’t know that the earthquake is starting to rumble. Others think it won’t impact them." -Dr. Lance Eliot

Given societal and business trends of embracing new and disruptive technologies, it is safe to assume that AI will continue to have a transformational impact on the legal system and administration of justice. If so, then it does no good to ignore the approaching storm. The better course would be to start orienting yourself to the new legal landscape unfolding in front of you. This is one instance in which "FOMO" could work to your advantage, if you take advantage of it and become an early adopter.

Truth or Dare?

To start this journey, we will revisit the children's game "Truth or Dare." You know, the one in which friends take turns choosing between either telling the truth (usually by answering an embarrassing question) or doing something on a dare (again, usually something embarrassing - what kind of friends did I hang out with, anyway?).

No worries, you will not be asked to do something that will cause embarrassment or public humiliation. Instead, in this adult-version of "truth or dare," you simply need to (1) evaluate the truth about your current state of willingness/readiness to implement Legal AI into your law practice, and (2) accept the "dare" to take the first step (or the next step) on your Legal AI journey.

Are You Prepared for the Coming Legal AI Storm?

If you are still "on the fence" about utilizing Legal AI, you have plenty of company. According to a March 2023 survey conducted by LexisNexis, only 51% of attorneys surveyed had already used AI tools in their work or were planning on doing so. However, an overwhelming "84% believe generative AI tools will increase the efficiency of lawyers, paralegals, or law clerks." These results beg the question: if 84% of those surveyed believe Legal AI could be beneficial, then why have nearly half of them not yet stepped foot in the ring?

Suggestions for Getting Started Using AI Language Models

The answer to that question will vary, but the truth is that sometimes we all need a little nudge or nod of encouragement. Here are a few easy suggestions to help you get going:

  1. Stay Curious. Exploring Legal AI technology can be an exciting journey full of promise. It will have twists and turns, and there will be many discoveries and surprises along the way. Do not be intimidated, and be sure that you guard against "information paralysis." Instead, approach Legal AI with an open mind and optimistic attitude. Stay curious and willing to learn. After all, your love of learning is one reason you became an attorney in the first place!

  2. Dare to Experiment. The key to mastering any new skill is being willing to experiment. Select a Legal AI application and take it for a "test drive." In my experience, acquiring a new skill follows this learning cycle: novelty -> familiarity -> proficiency. You went through this cycle when learning how to take a deposition, try a case, or close a deal. Why should Legal AI be any different?

  3. Learn how to "Speak" AI. OpenAI, the creator of ChatGPT, employs Large Language Models (LLMs) that they claim can help you "get instant answers, find creative inspiration, and learn something new." That can happen if you learn how to speak AI through "prompts" - the questions you ask or the parameters you give to the AI language model to generate a desired response. Some prompts are better than others. Some are too vague or generalized. The better the prompt, the better the result. An old expression still applies: "Garbage in, garbage out." The following list provides a few tips on how to improve your prompts.

  1. Be Clear and Specific: When formulating your prompt, be as clear and specific as possible about the information or assistance you need. Clearly state the context, the problem, and any relevant details. This helps guide the AI model's response and increases the chances of receiving accurate and relevant information.

  2. Use Proper Formatting: Organize your prompts using proper formatting to make them more readable and understandable. Break down complex questions into multiple parts, use bullet points, or employ headings to structure your prompt effectively. This improves the model's ability to grasp the different components of your request and provide coherent responses.

  3. Provide Sufficient Context: Context is crucial for obtaining accurate and helpful responses. Briefly provide the necessary background information or context related to your question. Include relevant facts, legal principles, or specific cases that help the model understand the scope of your inquiry.

  4. Specify Jurisdiction: The legal landscape can vary significantly depending on the jurisdiction. To receive accurate and relevant information, identify the jurisdiction or state in your prompt. This enables the model to consider the specific laws, regulations, and legal precedents applicable to that jurisdiction.

  5. Ask for Reasoning or Explanation: Instead of solely requesting a direct answer, ask the model to provide reasoning or explanation behind its response. This will help you to understand the underlying analysis that led to the answer, facilitate your own critical thinking and legal research, and (*this is very important*) verify the accuracy of the response it provides. AI is certainly fallible, so it is imperative that you have a system of checks and balances in place before incorporating the AI's response in your final work product.

The more you practice, the more proficient you will become. I have already used ChatGPT to assist in the drafting of my law firm's employee handbook, various contract provisions, and substantive business correspondence. I have been very impressed with the results, and I am sure you will be, too. Now is your time to give Legal AI a try. Whatever happens, keep moving forward!

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