What is generative AI? A guide for lawyers

October 24, 2023
Legal teams are cautiously optimistic about generative AI. But what does this mean for legal processes in 2024? Find out in this guide.

What is generative AI?

Generative AI is a branch of artificial intelligence that can generate content using machine learning algorithms.

These AI models are trained on vast datasets of human-written text, which enables them to understand context, grammar, and semantics. 

As a result, generative AI can also understand and emulate complex legal language, terminologies, and nuances, making it a valuable tool for legal professionals.

How does generative AI work?

Generative AI works by using artificial neural networks to understand patterns in text data it's been trained on. It generates text by selecting words and phrases based on this training, creating human-like responses. Let's run through through this process briefly.

  • Neural networks: Neural networks, like artificial neurons in the human brain, process information and understand language patterns
  • Training data: Generative AI is trained by analyzing extensive datasets, making it familiar with grammar, context, and language structure
  • Context and attention: It focuses on relevant parts of input text through attention mechanisms, enabling it to generate relevant and appropriate responses
  • Sampling and generation: The AI generates an output using the patterns and connections it recognizes, resulting in human-like responses

Should lawyers use generative AI in their work?

Generative AI will prove transformative to the legal industry, with the potential for legal automation being greater than ever before. That said, it’s important for lawyers to understand that generative AI can work with varying degrees of success. 

On one hand, ChatGPT 4 has managed to pass the bar, and Court of Appeal judges have gone as far as to label ChatGPT ‘jolly useful’. However, there are also horror stories, with two US lawyers fined for submitting a legal brief containing fake citations generated by ChatGPT

The secret to using generative AI successfully is to simply understand how it works. Lawyers using generative AI need to acknowledge the risks of using AI in their work, and how they can mitigate these to unlock its full potential.

The pace of development with AI is mind-blowing, and while companies should explore ways to integrate generative AI into their operations, they should also consider (and find ways to avoid) the points of failure - Richard Mabey, CEO, Juro

Will generative AI replace lawyers?

Generative AI will not replace lawyers, but it might change the nature of the work they do.

When Goldman Sachs estimated that 44 per cent of legal work could be automated, the conversation quickly turned to whether lawyers' jobs were at risk.

While lawyers and generative AI share a few strengths, the legal industry is a high-risk environment, requiring emotional intelligence, context and expertise that AI simply can't emulate. The high risk and high reward work will always be reserved for lawyers that possess these skills.

It's the low-value work that generative AI can support on, like reviewing contracts and summarizing legal documents.

Despite the scaremongering, this use of generative AI will actually increase lawyers' productivity, not make their skills and expertise redundant. It will enable them to streamline their workload and focus on the projects that require their experience and knowledge the most.

Advice for lawyers considering using generative AI

To recap: we've explored what generative AI is and how it works. But what do lawyers need to know before getting started? We've compiled some tips from experts in the field.

1. Stay in the loop about recent developments

Generative AI is changing every single day. In fact, ChatGPT has released countless updates since it was released at the start of 2023. Staying in the loop about these developments is crucial for a few reasons:

  1. It enables you to gain the most value from generative AI solutions as you can identify and benefit from the most advanced features
  2. It helps you to mitigate risk and safeguard against any vulnerabilities if and when they arise
The key is to read up on generative AI and ensure you’re aware of the issues – read articles, attend webinars, and talk to other lawyers - Caroline Iroegbu, General Counsel, Clarity

2. Get a strong grasp on privacy and data control

Privacy and data protection need to be front of mind for lawyers considering generative AI, not an afterthought.

This means restricting access to tools that don't meet your stringent security requirements. It can also mean setting rules in place about when data can be shared with these tools, and the type of data permitted.

It's a good idea to conduct a data protection impact assessment before integrating AI into your legal processes. That way, you can be confident that your legal AI tool is secure and compliant.

This is particularly important when choosing a vendor since some AI solutions will share your data and prompts to train LLMs. Other vendors, like Juro, do not.

Many new entrants coming to market seem to have forgotten that contracts are your most sensitive business documents, and almost always contain personal data - Richard Mabey, CEO, Juro

3. Default to reviewing and improving outputs

Generative AI is powerful. But it isn't infallible. That's why it's important to default to reviewing and improving the outputs delivered by these tools.

It's also important to only use generative AI solutions like ChatGPT for requests where you can verify the outputs. Without this knowledge, it'll be difficult to flag any errors or inconsistencies.

As a skilled lawyer or contract professional, your job is to engineer prompts and monitor output in a way that produces high quality output that you are prepared to stand behind - Michael Haynes, General Counsel, Juro

4. Experiment to find out what works (and what doesn't)

When using generative AI, you need to remember that the output will only be as good as your input. For the best responses, you'll need to nail your requests first.

This often means engineering your prompts to make sure they give you the most valuable and accurate results. For more tips and advice on how to get started with this, check out this guide to the best ChatGPT prompts for lawyers.

I would recommend experimenting with AI-enabled platforms instead of avoiding them entirely - the lawyers waiting today will find themselves five years behind when it comes to finally taking the plunge - Patrick Hicks, General Counsel, Trust & Will

5. Don't shy away from generative AI 

Discussion about the risks associated with generative AI can often overshadow the benefits of AI for lawyers. Don't let this cloud your judgement, though.

If used effectively, generative AI can give lawyers a competitive edge over their peers. They can create, agree and manage contracts more efficiently than ever before.

In a world where lawyers are buried in low-value work, they need to use every tool at their disposal, including generative AI. Before you rule it out, weigh the benefits against the risk and decide what works for your business.

Lawyers should use all the resources at their disposal – generative AI is one more tool in the toolbox - Daniel Glazer, London Office Managing Partner, Wilson Sonsini

Want to find out more about generative AI for lawyers?

For more information about how legal teams can leverage generative AI safely and effectively, check out these resources:

Alternatively, fill in the form below to book a personalized demo of Juro's legal AI assistant and find out how it enables teams to agree contracts 10x faster than traditional tools.

Want to save 90% of time on contracts?

Book a demo to find out how Juro is helping 6000+ companies to agree and manage contracts up to 10x faster than traditional tools.

Liked what you read? Stay in touch for all the latest insights.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
To learn more about the use of your personal data, please consult our readable Privacy Policy

Instantly book a personalized demo

  • Schedule a live, interactive demo with a Juro specialist

  • See in-depth analysis of your contract process - and tailored solutions

  • Find out what all-in-one contract automation can do for your business


Schedule a demo

To learn more about the use of your personal data, please consult our readable Privacy Policy.

Your privacy at a glance

Hello. We are Juro Online Limited (known by humans as Juro). Here's a summary of how we protect your data and respect your privacy.

Read the full policy
(no legalese, we promise)

Join our next 30-min live demo of Juro

Modern businesses use Juro to automate contracts from drafting to signature and beyond, in one intuitive platform that every team can use. Want to see how?

Sign me up