December 22, 2022

Lawyers Who Use Generative AI Face Less Tedium

Steven P. Keely
Lawyers Who Use Generative AI Face Less Tedium

A good lawyer is strategic, detail-oriented, and empathetic. These virtues reflect an underlying ability, what we can call creative intelligence. Much of a lawyer’s work today is unfortunately not satisfying. Money is relevant, but more important to people is a sense of meaning in what they do.

Artificial intelligence (AI) augments a lawyer’s creative intelligence. They are not substitutes. One type of AI, generative, creates content: Words or other symbols. The quality of your deliverables (e.g., an opinion letter) can be much improved with generative AI. Much of lawyering boils down to the quality of the spoken or written word.

Generative AI-based software may make its users more money, but fundamentally it appeals to any professional’s biggest motivations:

• The quality of work they do, to contribute significant value to others, and a reputation for it.

• The satisfaction of curiosity, the pursuit of learning and one’s own improved understanding and skill.

This article relies on contract drafting and review to demonstrate the benefits of generative AI. But the technology is helpful for litigation and transactional work. 

Keep reading.

Generative AI augments irreplaceable lawyering abilities

Crafting a good contract, brief, or any legal work product, is a creative process. Creativity is cognitively burdensome. A good lawyer has the details and facts down so they can generate novel factual and legal theories, whether that’s for a cooperative context–like cutting a deal–or hostile, like helping trial counsel prepare arguments for a litigation where a disputed contract term is at issue. 

Cognitive loads are lifted when smart people no longer have to think about trivial things as much. Your company’s bottom line; your reputation; your skillset what do these things have in common? They are not trivial. 

But forgetting an important clause or not adding a smart new bit of language because you had to, eyes glazed over, scan through lots of pages of previous contracts? Trivial, as obstacles go. 

So what is the upside of removing trivialities from your attention, your field of vision, your subjective experience as a lawyer on the job? Significant. 

The advantage that generative AI offers is not as visible to other people until they see how you used it to come up with better deliverables. How does this technology make it happen? The idea of decluttering the mind has been tossed around by brilliant psychologists and charlatans alike. Legal tech teams shouldn’t be in the business of life advice. But they should definitely be in the business of enhancing the creative intelligence of lawyers and paralegals.

Artificial intelligence is not just for replacing some jobs, though it does that to some extent. The power of artificial intelligence in contract law is to free up the minds of lawyers for higher-level thought.

Consider the details of your creative problem-solving process

Consider the details of how the mind of an attorney works and can work better or worse. 

• The more you have to think to remember details, the less capacity you have to form a big picture insight. 

• The fewer important details which you have considered, the less effective, efficient, and comprehensive your understanding and ultimately, deliverables.

Applying this analysis to the contract context, the two biggest difficulties keeping lawyers from high-level thought are:

• Reading through all the relevant documents and provisions.

• Getting enough clear language in front of you so you can take a step back and think about it.

You need to have surveyed the deal and contract landscape as accurately and completely as possible to maximize your performance as a contract lawyer. Having gotten the details down, you want to have them at your disposal for further consideration in a convenient way. 

As a lawyer you perform five core tasks when handling contracts. We can group the first three together because they’re about thinking and talking. The last two are about close inspection of written language.

• Research and analysis into the deal.

• Negotiation with the other side.

• Giving explanations and advice to the client or stakeholders in the client firm.

• Drafting contract language.

• Reviewing drafted contract language.

Let’s start with the first three and how you can do them better with generative AI. 

Understand, explain, and negotiate contracts better with reliable AI

The first thing you’ve got to do as a lawyer looking at a potential deal is research and analysis. Good contract language encodes three types of information:

• Understanding past contract practice.

• The uniqueness of the deal in front of you.

• How they combine together.

All three pieces of information involve the business side and the legal side of things. Each category has different research sources. The business side may depend on calls with colleagues in different departments. The legal side may depend on a recent judicial opinion and an internal company drive containing past approved contracts. 

More specifically, all three pieces of information require that you understand the benefit of the bargain for each counterparty. You have to know how each right and duty in the contract achieves your client’s goals and at least be familiar with how they fit into the goals on the other side of the table.

You might object that an AI simply cannot provide you with a deep understanding like what I just described. No robot can. 

You’re right. No AI, including a generative one, can give you knowledge. 

But a good one can help you earn knowledge. Not many AIs can say the same, especially in difficult professional fields like contract law. But GPT-3 can. It is an AI built by OpenAI, a research and development firm. The algorithm has been, and is fed, with massive sums of information. 

• Thousands and thousands of contracts

• Legal context for the contracts, including jurisdiction-specific rules.

• Business context for the contracts, including types of companies and industries.

The algorithm has processed trillions of documents across the internet. A “large” language model like this one develops area-specific abilities because it has so much information at its disposal. 

Get standard English summaries and highlights with one click

A core generative AI function is to summarize language. It can summarize an entire contract, like a big and complex software-as-a-service agreement. It can condense particular provisions, including key terminology. 

The summarizing feature helps you understand the contract before you’ve read the whole thing. This is not because you relied on the AI. It is because you had a sense of things to make your own independent understanding easier to achieve. This base research and analysis helps you negotiate for your client and give them better advice and explanations. 

It does not matter if the contract language happens to have a lot of legal jargon. The AI has been fed with standard English explanations as context for the legal jargon that it has also seen. 

You want to explain in standard English, free of legal jargon so the client can understand you during conversation and in written deliverables like opinion letters. Generative AI can turn a contract into language that a 5-year old can understand. 

Generative AI can also help with negotiations. It can tell you if a deal is more favorable to one side or the other and identifies which provisions make that a reality. Likewise, the AI helps you understand the points that you want to negotiate with the other side. You can find non-standard (unusual) terms and check them again to discuss with counsel for the other side.

Let generative AI make contract drafting and review easier for you

The most time-consuming task as a lawyer is reading documents. It can be the biggest source of enjoyment and, at the same time, a hassle. Generative AI reduces the hassle and magnifies the enjoyment you feel.

GPT-3 has seen so many contracts it has many options on tap. They’ve been winnowed down because it has also seen context for these contracts (stuff outside the four corners of the documents). What you get with every click on the drafting function are new, interesting options that you may not have considered. This helps you brainstorm and outline. 

One of the most basic principles of contract law practice is to copy what has worked in the past but customize as needed. Much of the first part, copying, boils down to reading through contracts to find the right starting points. But what if you could have all that with the click of a button?

As a lawyer reviewing draft contract language, your main value is as a fresh pair of detached eyes. You bring a new perspective to catch mistakes and add value with new ideas. This is more possible with generative AI. 

Generative AI for contract drafting and review frees you up to be more strategic and thoughtful when editing contract language. For example, it can identify undefined terms that are important to specify. It can identify unusual language that you may want to consider more closely. 

Tech-savvy lawyers know they’re better than machines

A good contract is sufficiently deep to capture what makes the deal in hand unique. A good contract is also sufficiently wide to hold onto what has worked in the past, where the past is similar to the present. 

Who brings these factors together? You. A good lawyer cannot be replaced because a good lawyer is a creative problem solver. 

The promise of generative AI is to augment the creative intelligence of effective professionals. Spellbook is making good on this promise for lawyers dealing with contracts. 

You don’t need to give up anything you do but the trivial stuff. Become a tech-savvy lawyer when it comes to contracts and start by taking your spot on the waitlist for Spellbook.

Ready to learn more? Check out the rest of our Getting Started Guide.