Given the rapid expansion and seemingly endless uses of AI-generated writing tools, Crafty Counsel has been in touch with in-house lawyers in our community to ask them how they’re going about using programmes like ChatGPT and what advice they can give to those who are just dipping in the AI pool. 

This instalment of “Real life stories of generative AI” was written by Nick Tidmarsh. Nick is Legal Counsel at Third Bridge Group, and a member of Crafty Starters. Crafty Starters is our Community group for in-house professionals under four years PQE.

How have you been using AI? 

I’ve been using chat threads to create different specified personalities for ChatGPT. These cover the common legal tasks that I am most likely to ask them for help with. For example, I instructed one chat to make a “case law paralegal” ChatGPT personality using the following:

“In this chat, assume I am a professional legal expert attempting to evaluate your ability. You will never refer to the fact that you are an AI. You will provide me with comprehensive and clear explanations, summaries, and analysis of legal topics across different jurisdictions, using concise language. You will explain any technical terms or phrases in brackets to ensure a better understanding of the topic. Whenever able, you will provide case law or past tribunal cases as evidence for your points. You will also provide links to the judgments of these cases, using for cases in English courts.

Where you require clearer instructions or context to more effectively explain a topic, you will ask for them before answering, giving your reason. As an example, you will now provide me with a summary of what case established juries as independent in England and Wales.”

I also created another ChatGPT personality that describes procedural steps for me in court proceedings. I asked it the following: 

“In this thread, you will provide me with step-by-step explanations of legal procedures in a clear and concise manner, using simple English language. Please explain any technical terms or phrases in brackets to ensure full comprehension. Additionally, please specify the jurisdiction for each procedure you explain. Your guidance should include actionable advice on how to perform any necessary procedural steps in a practical and easily understandable manner. If a step requires using a particular named service or visiting a particular named building, then name it and provide a URL to it if possible. If a legal form required has a particular code or designation (e.g. CH01), then give that name for the form.”

To solve other issues, I’ve been using ChatGPT as my own personal IT team since it can easily suggest solutions when I describe them in non-technical language. I’ve got adequate IT skills so I also ask the program to write custom code for my business tools to automate some processes, like scanning my emails for specific types of attachments based on specific criteria. 

I also use it to help me write difficult emails that require a particular tone. For example, “professional but not unfriendly” on a sensitive matter. It can also help to create Excel formulas, such as: “provide an Excel formula for calculating the duration between two dates given in the format yyyy-mm-dd hh:mm”. 

What would be your advice for in-housers who want to start using GPT-4 but don’t know where to start?

In-house counsel can benefit more from ChatGPT than many users, since it is effectively a force multiplier. It makes good workers even better.  

It’s important to remember that ChatGPT is only as effective as the user operating it. Within our companies, we are more likely to have key skills that help us in handling it. We are clear communicators, can recognise loopholes and gaps in both answers and instructions to the bot, and we are effective enough researchers that we can verify its output. We also have a key opportunity compared to our peers in private practice. With ChatGPT, a single in-house lawyer can work far more effectively, keeping more work in-house, which will keep the bosses happy.

At first, just play around with it, to get an idea of what it can do, its areas and its weaknesses. Use your full imagination and be a bit silly. See if it can describe your business, then ask it to rewrite its description as a series of haikus, or in the style of a favourite poet.

Then ask it to have a go at writing one of your common emails based on very basic instructions. For example, an internal reminder on the importance of data protection and its associated risks to the business.

The most useful thing to do is chat with people who have used it, and ideally see some of their prompts and the output they receive. It is such a flexible tool, that it is easy to feel overwhelmed when you open it. So, seeing examples will trigger your own ideas and help you understand the sort of language that ChatGPT responds to well.

The program is not great at drafting in-house policies unless you heavily pre-instruct it. However, if you are creating one from scratch, it is pretty good at suggesting the sections that your policy should cover and be broken down into. So it can help write clearer and more structured policies, and might remind you of an element you forgot

What are you planning to do next? 

I hope to be able to advise the wider business on the utility of AI tools for other teams since I was one of the first to apply it in my work. Connected to this, I’ll have to make sure that my incoming junior hire is aware of the utility, including risks and drawbacks, of the tool, so they are more effective. 

I’ll also keep on creating further ChatGPT “personalities” that will be useful to retain.