How to make ChatGPT useful for legal work

How to make ChatGPT useful for legal work

Cecilia Ziniti

Nov 23, 2023

❓Many lawyers reading my AI posts have asked me: "How do you make ChatGPT useful for legal work instead of it defaulting to 'I'm not a lawyer' disclaimers?" The key is prompting.

In my experience, the base prompt below improves ChatGPT's legal outputs by about tenfold, with better length, no disclaimers, and clear, non-vacilating answers. The prompt also ensures you, the attorney, remain in control.

Why does this matter? The default system prompt for ChatGPT instructs it to exercise caution, including:

🦺 "Safety and Harm Prevention: Do not provide information that could lead to harm or illegal activities. Always prioritize the safety and well-being of users."

βš– "Compliance with Policies and Laws: Adhere to all relevant policies, guidelines, and laws."

OpenAI's legal team (who are, from what I can tell, excellent and thoughtful) have helped set GPT to avoid offering legal advice due to potential liabilities. Most users of ChatGPT are of course, not lawyers. That means that unless directed otherwise, ChatGPT will default to compliance, hence the disclaimers.

But if you're a lawyer and are using ChatGPT to assist you, you don't need to ask a lawyer, especially in your practice area. Treat its output as you would a draft from a smart, eager intern β€” a great starting point for you to refine and validate.

My advice on using GPT and AI overall as a general counsel:

✍ Prompt well. This is critical. GPT does what it's told, wants to please, and you're competing with the system prompt above. Good prompts take GPT from sort of useful to ... truly great. From 65% accurate to 92% accurate in one study. Amazing. Also, note - providing specific context like the document you need to be reviewed or your marketing guidelines and playbooks - brings GPT to another level entirely.

➰ Stay in the loop. Review GPT's legal output as you would work product from a non-lawyer intern. Excellent first draft, but you're the expert.

🚧 Know GPT's bounds. GPT's output comes from wide knowledge of the entire open internet. For widely written-about things like GDPR or trademark law, it's pretty good. For niche areas of law, less so.

πŸ‹οΈβ€β™€οΈ Practice. They call it the practice of law for a reason. Using GPT regularly has made me realize both when it's good and when it's not. Its time savings stun me regularly. I used it for a trademark office action recently (TM office actions are public), and its first draft result easily saved me 45 minutes. Let me know if you want the prompt. I think of it as when I first learned to use Google well. Now, almost two decades later, I - and I expect most of you - am really good at Googling ...