Between talent and skill gaps, looming corporate layoffs, and an impending economic downturn, it’s no wonder lawyers’ stress levels are reaching all-time highs. Bloomberg Law finds that attorneys are consistently feeling burnout at their jobs at least 44% of the time.
Whether they’re juggling both managerial and client duties at their own practice or trying to stay afloat at a corporate firm amid the most recent round of furloughs, it can often feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day.
One potential solution? Offload work to AI.
Leveraging the tech for simple and mundane tasks, generative AI tools like ChatGPT can help busy lawyers streamline their day-to-day and open them up for higher priority items—in addition to much-needed relaxation and family time.
However, many lawyers have been wary of ChatGPT, and for good reason. There are very real concerns about client confidentiality and the potential to leak sensitive information. ChatGPT also can’t be relied on as a sole source of legal information—it’s trained on outdated data and laws and has even been known to fabricate source materials.
That said, with oversight and a healthy dose of skepticism, generative AI can be a great tool to save lawyers hours each week. Here are a few ways that we use ChatGPT in our practice, and how to best capitalize on applications of the technology.
There are many ways generative AI can streamline your client communications. Take agenda-building for client calls as an example. Prompt ChatGPT with anonymized notes that you’d like to discuss, along with issues and questions, and it will provide a well-organized outline to walk through with the client.
A prompt to try out: “Prepare an agenda for my upcoming call with a prospective client. They are facing [issue]. Make sure to cover key questions to ask and information to gather, and remind me to take them through our standard onboarding process, covered by this SOP.”
ChatGPT can prepare consent notices and consultations, too. Just input the notice provision of a contract (on an anonymized basis) into ChatGPT and ask it to prepare a consent notice while giving it the factual circumstances. ChatGPT can then craft a written notice letter that is almost always compliant with the contractual requirements (but always make sure to double-check), saving you 80% to 90% of the time it would usually take to write one yourself.
From interview questions to employee policies, ChatGPT can support you operationally so you can focus on more in-depth tasks that require a human touch.
For example, ChatGPT is great at preparing standard operating procedures for well-known software programs, so use that to your benefit! You can ask it to “Prepare an SOP for billing a trust account,” and then watch as ChatGPT delivers a well-written SOP to share with administrative support.
Who has the time to write blog posts or social media copy when there’s so much work to be done? ChatGPT can start those posts, leaving you with the simple tasks of editing and submitting. Prompt ChatGPT with something like, “Draft a blog post covering the SBA 7(a) requirements for buying a small business,” and it will prepare a thoughtful initial draft that you can then alter, supplement with your own voice, and proofread.
It’s worth mentioning here that ChatGPT likely isn’t aware of the many regulations around lawyer advertising. It’s up to you in these instances to review any materials generated by ChatGPT to ensure compliance with the applicable rules for professional conduct.
Simple Legal Tasks
Generative AI can take some of those legal tasks off your plate, too. Legal research is one area that can be particularly helpful to get a head start on. Although it will require a second pair of eyes and fact-checking, AI can save you hours of digging online.
You can also enter anonymized contracts or excerpts directly into ChatGPT and it will prepare an initial review of the agreement that reduces review time and enhances the quality of review. ChatGPT can be your devil’s advocate, introducing ideas or arguments you may have missed. An example prompt to try out: “Analyze this agreement from the customer’s perspective, tell me what areas to push back on, and let me know if any key market terms should be added.”
With lawyers under more pressure than ever, there’s no reason not to use generative AI to give you valuable time back.
While AI won’t be joining your firm as a partner anytime soon, think of it as a helpful assistant—one that can provide research, first drafts, and editing insights in seconds.
Of course, the technology has its limitations, but there are countless ways to use AI safely in your practice, and busy lawyers should feel encouraged to play around with the technology to get the most out of the tasks they need support with. Plus, generative AI is only improving, and those who have a basic understanding now will have a leg up as the technology evolves.
This article does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg Industry Group, Inc., the publisher of Bloomberg Law and Bloomberg Tax, or its owners.
Eric Pacifici is one of the founding partners of SMB Law Group, a firm dedicated to small business M&A. Eric is a deal lawyer with extensive M&A and capital markets experience, having worked for law firms such as Kirkland & Ellis, and Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher.
Kevin Henderson is one of the founding partners of SMB Law Group. Kevin is a corporate lawyer with over a decade of M&A, venture capital, and capital markets experience, having worked for law firms such as Cravath, Swaine & Moore, and Cooley.
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