ChatGPT and Legal Writing: The Perfect Union?
Check out how AI can help you take your legal writing to the next level.
Table of Contents
What Legal Writers Need to Know About GPT
Chat GPT’s Strengths Out of the Box
Chat GPTs Current Weaknesses and Limitations
Getting Started with Chat GPT
Prompt Engineering for Legal Writers
Legal Writing Prompts You Can Use with GPT
Using GPT to Improve Your Writing
More GPT Legal Writing Examples for Inspiration
Key GPT Terms to Know
Final Thoughts for GPT and Legal Writers
ChatGPT is having a moment in legal. And for good reason: Generative AI (tools like ChatGPT that generate text or data for you) was already disrupting legal before OpenAI’s new chatbot came on the scene. And Write.law has been teaching lawyers how to use tools like this for years.
But ChatGPT marks a new era. The brain behind OpenAI’s latest AI, GPT, contains 175 billion artificial neurons and was trained on around 500 billion pieces of text gathered on the web. All that data and computing power makes for the smartest AI to date.
GPT is particularly powerful for legal writers. Looking for a better verb for your sentence? GPT can give you some great examples using your own writing. Looking for a quick summary of a brief that you’re responding to? GPT has you covered there as well. GPT can even help you find an engaging analogy for your case, brainstorm a theme for your motion, and put all your citations in order.
We are excited to soon launch the first Write.law course dedicated to teaching you how to leverage GPT and similar tech tools to boost your legal writing. We are also thrilled to be launching interactive legal writing practice in our courses that leverages GPT technology.
But there’s no need to wait. You can start using GPT to boost your legal writing today. And we’re going to show you how.
You’ll need a bit of context about how this technology works. Then you’ll need a few best practices for crafting effective instructions for GPT—called Prompt Engineering. Finally, we’ll share some simple prompts to get you started (and if you want to keep exploring, you can find many more legal-writing prompts in our full course, which is coming soon).
What Legal Writers Need to Know About GPT.
We all hear stories about how ChatGPT got this or that legal question wrong. But many of these errors stem from folks not understanding how the AI works.¹ Language models like this use thinking processes that don’t always line up with how we humans think. Once you understand these differences, you can tweak your prompts to get better answers.
Let’s take a simple example. If you ask GPT whether the person who scores the most points in a game of golf is the winner—it might say “yes.” If you’re not into golf, this is one of the few games where getting a higher score isn’t a good thing, so GPT is making a mistake here.
GPT often gets this question wrong because, by default, the AI looks at all the data in its brain (which it collected from the internet) and thinks, “Wow, in nearly every game out there, the winner is the one who scores the most points. So given the overwhelming number of games this is true for, it must be true for golf, too.” GPT can be influenced by the sheer weight of information suggesting an answer, even if that popular answer is wrong.
But that’s not the whole story. If you ask GPT the same question, but you first tell it to tackle the problem step-by-step—to learn about the rules of golf first, then answer your question about who wins—you’ll usually get the right answer. That’s because you’re guiding ChatGPT in how you want it to approach your question. You’re telling it: Don’t just weigh all the data out there on this general topic. Apply some reasoning.
Similar problems cause many other mistakes we hear about in the media. By default, GPT can be good at creative work, like coming up with fanciful stories or names. The AI doesn’t understand that you want it to tell the truth. Or that it should tell you if it doesn’t know an answer, instead of making something up.
But this shouldn’t be a surprise. GPT is designed to do a lot of things, so left to its own devices, who knows what answers you’ll get? Using GPT to help with your legal writing is all about understanding what the tool is good at by default—and then learning how to guide the AI’s brain as needed so that it understands what you want from it. What’s amazing is that you can guide GPT almost like it’s a human: Using natural language and simple instructions—and having a conversation about what it’s getting right and what it’s getting not so right.
¹For example, in a recent ABA article, the author asked ChatGPT to simply “Draft a brief to the California Supreme Court on why it should review the California Court of Appeal’s decision that bees are fish.” If you expect a single sentence of guidance ot produce a helpful document in full, you’re almost sure to be disappointed. That’s now how GPT was build and it’s not how it works. Even so, the author shared a passable template for a brief. But without any parameters—and with such an open-ended task—don’t expect much. See https://www.abajournal.com/web/article/does-chatgpt-produce-fishy-briefs.
Chat GPT’s Strengths Out of the Box
Let’s start with tasks that GPT can be helpful for with your legal writing, often without too much guidance:
Improving the style in your sentences: This is one of the easiest ways to start using GPT. You don’t need GPT to know the right answer, or carry out complex analysis. You’re leveraging something it’s great at: Looking at tons of sentences and paragraphs and coming up with different ways you can approach your writing goals. You can have GPT rewrite legalese or formal text into readable plain language. Or you can use GPT to fine-tune a sentence or paragraph to improve your style.
Summarizing defined text: Summarizing cases, briefs, motions or any other snippets of text—especially facts—to help you quickly figure out the major topics and points. Other tools are good at this, too, including paid products that have been on the market for years. But GPT may be even better (and cheaper).
Brainstorming themes, storylines, and other high-level, creative ideas for your writing: Billions of documents fuel GPT, including much of the great creative and nonfiction writing. If you’re looking for storylines, themes, pithy headlines for your brief—GPT can be a fantastic brainstorming partner. Creative ideas are a great way to use GPT because you aren’t asking for hard facts, and often we legal writers just need a little inspiration to come up with effective ways to connect with our readers.
Drafting simple or formulaic starter text for a procedural section of a brief, an email, or other common legal documents: Legal writers constantly complain about blank-page syndrome. The power of getting some starter text, headings, or general ideas on the page can do wonders. So while you shouldn’t yet rely on the case law, facts, or analysis GPT will come up with, it’s great at giving you a quick outline for a motion, some starter text for formal sections like procedural standards, or a simple template for documents you’ve never written before. Don’t be deterred that the tool won’t get everything right—having a couple of pages of starter text that hits on the right points can get you started, which is often half the battle.
Extracting information from defined text and organizing, classifying, or analyzing it: GPT works great with defined text. If you give it a page of text from a brief and ask it to extract information or data from it, GPT knows what you want it to focus on so it won’t stray as much as with open-ended tasks. GPT can do just about anything you can think of with some defined text
Creating or organizing tables of data: If you’re working with data, numbers, or other classifiable sets of information, GPT can help organize, classify, or summarize it all. You’ll want to double-check its work, but again, working with defined text is easy for this AI. Like any good legal tech tool, the time savings here can be significant.
Getting quick answers to simple factual or legal research questions: As many have noted, you don’t want to rely on GPT for critical facts, especially complex ones. Because GPT doesn’t think like us, and (at least without a lot of guidance) may make things up that sound more trustworthy than they are. But to get you started on a topic, or as you are thinking about a topic, GPT can give you quick answers to start your writing, particularly if the question is specific and targeted.
Translating or explaining text: GPT is a wonderful text translator because the task is so well-defined. If you need to translate text into a different language, this can be a handy tool. The same goes for esoteric or complex text (like a science article). GPT can help you quickly wrap your head around esoteric or complex terminology—and give you ideas for explaining it well to others.
Other tasks that involve text, facts, or data you can easily identify for GPT: The great thing about generative AI is that if you work with it enough, the possibilities are nearly endless. You just need to get a sense of its limitations and the writing tasks it can help with, and you’ll see more and more ways to use it in your practice. But remember: The more well-defined the task, and the more finite the data or information you want GPT to work from—the better results you’ll get. And as we’ll see, the more you iterate, the better you will learn to work well with GPT.
Chat GPT’s Current Weaknesses and Limitations
Now let’s look at what GPT isn’t all that good at. Most importantly, the broader and more open-ended your questions—the less trustworthy and useful the results. The narrower your questions and the more guidance you give—the better the results.
So asking open-ended questions, especially questions that require some logical steps (like our golf example) is risky. You might get something useful, or accurate, or you might not. If the language you use is open to many interpretations, or uses jargon or terms of art that GPT doesn’t have much knowledge about—you won’t get the best results. Because GPT will start filling in the blanks, and who knows where that journey will end?
GPT also isn’t great for analyzing big documents in whole, because it has limits on the size of your input and its responses (called tokens). But most importantly, GPT is not good for doing legal or factual work that you need to rely on. It’s great for generating ideas; it’s great for carrying out simple tasks on specific information or data. But don’t trust it to go find you the best case law. Or to answer complex factual questions that require several logical steps to figure out.
And remember that OpenAI does not guarantee that information you put into its tools is secure—indeed, Open AI reserves the right to use your data to train its AI models. So avoid typing in sensitive or confidential information. Your best bet is to keep any identifying information general enough that you aren’t sharing anything that could be tied to a client or matter.
Getting Started with Chat GPT
When you’re ready to dive in, getting started with GPT is easy. After you’ve created an OpenAI account, you can use GPT either in the API Playground or in ChatGPT, OpenAI’s chatbot. Both use the same language models; the same AI brain. But you can use OpenAI’s API Playground to get some more control over GPT.
The API Playground allows you to:
Set the language model, if you prefer something other than the current, most-powerful model used by ChatGPT, which right now is GPT (for paid access, the less-powerful models are cheaper);
Control the temperature of the AI, which regulates how many diverse answers it provides. This is helpful if you want GPT to be more deterministic and confabulate less. If there is only one correct answer, set the temperature low; if there are many possible answers, set the temperature higher;
Control the amount of text you get back from GPT (which is particularly important if you are using a paid version), or have GPT run multiple searches and provide you the single best answer; and,
Train your own GPT models (which OpenAI calls Fine Tuning). This training allows you to teach the AI what sort of answers you prefer, drastically improving how well it works for your particular needs. You train by creating lists of example prompts and outputs you would like to see, and then converting this data into a file type GPT can learn from (called a JSON file). Training is powerful because it narrows the world for the AI to the type of information you’re looking for. But this is an extensive process: OpenAI says you need hundreds, or preferably thousands of entries before you see benefits from training. And in our experience, while that’s right, the benefits are outstanding.
Prompt Engineering for Legal Writers
Now let’s get to the fun part: Prompt Engineering. If you’ve tried ChatGPT, you know that it’s pretty simple. You type in some instructions, hit enter, and get a response. But to unlock the legal-writing power of GPT, you need to go a bit further to guide the AI. The more you guide it, the better it will know what sort of help you need—and the more accurate and useful the responses.
We’ll cover five simple skills for crafting excellent prompts: (1) instructions, (2) parameters, (3) examples, (4) context, and (5) follow-ups. With all of these prompt tools, you will likely need to experiment a bit to find the best prompts for different legal writing tasks. Also note that GPT remembers your discussions after you hit enter (because they are attached to your account). This is one of the game-changers over previous tools. You can prime GPT by entering extensive prompt guidance before your instructions, you can follow up after a response and help GPT understand what it’s doing right and wrong—and more.
First, creating clear instructions for GPT is key.
The more specific and narrow your instructions, the better the results you’ll receive. OpenAI struggles if you give it the whole world to parse, like “draft a contract.” So go narrow and specific. Start with a concrete verb letting GPT know what you want it to do, including terms like “summarize,” “brainstorm,” “rewrite,” extract,” “create” and so on. Check out our upcoming course for an exhaustive list of all the directive verbs that work best for legal writers.
GPT will follow nearly any guiding parameters you give it:
You can tell GPT what tone it should use in its responses.
You can control how long its response is.
You can require a certain number of responses (like a list of reasons or examples).
You can tell GPT to assume roles, which will help it contextualize your instructions.
You can give GPT ground truths that overwrite what it may otherwise think, ensuring that it treats key facts for your task as true.
You can tell GPT to use step-by-step reasoning. This is often called chain-of-thought, or COT prompting. Note that this is a powerful tool for many instructions, as shared in some exciting new research out this year. If you ask GPT to carry out tasks that require a few steps in reasoning, telling the AI to simply “think about it step by step” will help it know you don’t want a simple answer that results from crunching mass data.
Any parameters you add will likely help. And as with all prompt engineering, you should play around until you find the best approaches for different tasks.
Examples are often called few-shot prompts in the generative AI world. All this means is that you’re giving GPT a few exemplar prompts and responses that have the characteristics you’re looking for. These examples are even more powerful than parameters, because you’re showing GPT exactly what you want it to do—and it can learn a ton from even a single example. This is the same skill you would use to train your own models, if that’s ever something you want to explore.
Say you want GPT to brainstorm some better verbs for some key sentences in your brief—like in your headings. Just give the AI some examples of headings with poor verbs, then some sample responses with better verbs. GPT will even learn from your labels and formatting—it’s incredibly good at recognizing and following patterns. So for example, you could type in a prompt like this:
My sentence: The court issued a ruling on the motion.
Better sentence: The court ruled on the motion.
My sentence: The deadline was not met by the lawyers.
Better sentence: The lawyers missed the deadline.
My sentence: The court’s ruling is not released. [now enter the sentence you actually want to improve, hit enter, and GPT will take over]
[GPT’s response] Better sentence: The court has not ruled yet [usually a much-improved version, but you may need to follow up with GPT a few times to get great results like this]
Fourth, context and hints.
Beyond instructions, parameters, and examples, the more context you give GPT, the better. Make sure to tell GPT the text is context, so it knows you’re offering information for it to consider, not strict instructions. Context is great for helping confirm what topics or sorts of responses you’re looking for.
Similarly, you can use the word “Hint” to signal to GPT that any words you’re giving it are critical to the results you’re looking for. In recent studies, using hints significantly increased the quality of responses.
For example, if you instruct GPT to summarize the Palsgraf case, you could include a sample case summary or some comments about the case and what you’re most interested in (say, the facts or the legal reasoning). For context ________,
Or for hints, after asking for that summary, you could include hint words that signal what points to focus on: “Hints: reasonably foreseeable, causation”
GPT remembers your previous prompts during a session. This makes working with it much easier than previous tools. If GPT doesn’t give you a good answer, tell it so and it will do better the next time you ask. If GPT gives you a partially good answer, tell it what it got right and what it got wrong. For example:
Improve the two verbs in this sentence: “The garbage is removed by John, and Susie is taking a walk to the park.”
GPT’s response: John took out the garbage, and Susie walked to the park.
Pretty good, but let’s say you want a more descriptive verb in the second clause about Susie.
Just follow up with GPT:
The first clause is great, but choose a better verb for Susie that describes walking quickly.
GPT’s response: John took out the garbage, and Susie ran to the park.
Let’s look at another follow-up example, this time with some automation work.
Draft a caption for a motion between two parties: Dolores A. West, who is the plaintiff, and Park Healthcare Incorporated, who is the defendant. This case is in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois. The Case Number is 123131241.
GPT’s response: In the case of Dolores A. West vs. Park Healthcare Incorporated, Case No. 123131241 in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois, Dolores A. West has filed a motion against Park Healthcare Incorporated."
You can see GPT is trying, but it isn’t sure how to format a caption just from me calling it a “caption.” So I need to give it some more guidance. That doesn’t mean I will need to detail every step—it can figure out what I’m looking for pretty quickly.
Format the caption like this:
U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois
Dolores A. West
Park Healthcare Incorporated
Case No. 123131241
Now let’s get to some legal writing prompts you can start using.
Legal Writing Prompts You Can Use with GPT
Let’s look at some prompts to get you started on your GPT legal writing journey.
Remember: the more specific, the better. The less ambiguous, the better. If you use jargon, esoteric questions, or other language that is open to many interpretations (remember, this is an AI, not a human), you may not get great results. And it’s best to give GPT the smallest, specific text you want it to work on, rather than dropping in long blocks of text and just telling GPT to improve it.
We find you’ll get the most value if you focus on the important writing in your document, like headings, introductions, first sentences of paragraphs, thematic sentences, or any other key snippets of text you’re having trouble getting to the next level. And remember, if you few-shot (provide a few examples of good sentences or phrases you’re looking for) you’ll get better results.
And also know that stacked prompts of different types will work best. That is: Providing a role, instructions, parameters, context/hints, and examples all together: “Act as a federal judge. Explain how defamation works. Provide two paragraphs of less. Hints: intent, defamatory, falsity.
Let’s start with some helpful Prompt Engineering instructions you can use across different prompts. Emerging research on GPT models shows that there magic words that can change how the AI processes your requests.
“Provide x specific reasons”
“Provide x specific examples of ___”
“You are [specific role that is authoritative on a subject]”
“Let's work this out it in a step-by-step way to be sure we have the right answer.” In recent research, this particular wording performed excellently compared to similar prompts. These chain-of-thought prompts, called COT, encourage GPT to use reasoning instead of just crunching the mass data and weighing the answer based on what’s popular or most common.
Explain the steps you’d like GPT to take. For example: “First, search cases about defamation. Second, summarize the rule for defamation.” This is even better than a blanket COT prompt because you’re showing GPT how to reason.
"You are the world's leading expert in whatever I am about to ask you about." This actually improved the quality of a number of responses, with fascinating research to back that up.
“Confine your answers to [insert confining paramenters.]” For example: “Confine your analysis to these cases [list cases].”
“[Insert jargon or term of art] is defined as [insert definition].” If you are using language that GPT may not have much data on, defining it will help keep it on task so it doesn’t need to guess.
Or get more specific with length: “Keep your response to [insert length, like a paragraph, a sentence, and so on].”
“Use an [insert preference, like ‘academic’] tone”
“If you don’t know the answer, respond ‘I don’t know.’” This will help reduce false answers. Even better: You can train the tool by offering a few examples of silly, unknowable things and then show GPT to respond by saying “I don’t know.” Like priming with a prompt: “What is a Snorrglex?” Response: “I don’t know.”
Provide context, then follow up with a task: “For context, here are the facts of my case [list general facts].” Then follow up with “Write a motion based on these facts.” Or “Write a summary based on these facts.”
The following facts are true [insert facts or points; or alternatively, you can create a list of examples with these ground-truths]. This will ensure GPT treats some ground-rules as true in its work.
“Focus on the answers and don’t include conversational text.”
Use formatting guides like: “Write the following as an email” or “Write the following as a letter” or “Write the following as a blog post” or “Write the following as a cover letter”
The “act as” hack: You can tell GPT to embody a persona to help improve the quality of its results. For example “Act as a grammar checker” or “Act as an environment lawyer.”
Parameters are flexible: If you are getting some annoying tangents, clutter, or false information, use parameters to limit GPT work.
Using GPT to Improve Your Writing
ChatGPT is amazing at helping you come up with ideas for improving your writing style. Indeed, this may be the most helpful way to use the tool right now in legal writing. Because you aren’t looking for accurate facts or complex reasoning. You’re looking for writing ideas—and GPT has access to more writing structure, syntax, and vocabulary than you can imagine.
We are releasing a huge list of legal-writing style prompts in our upcoming course. But here are some fun ones to get started with:
“Pick better verbs in this sentence to convey [insert emotion or imagery you’re aiming for in the sentence]: [insert sentence to be improved]”
“Pick better adjectives in this sentence to convey [insert emotion or imagery you’re aiming for in the sentence]: [insert sentence to be improved]”
“Improve the transition between these two sentences: [insert text to be transitioned]”
“Rewrite this paragraph to be more concise but convey the same points: [insert text to be transitioned]”
“Rewrite this sentence to use only the important part of the quote: [insert sentence with long quote to shorten]”
“Create an analogy for this sentence: [insert your point]”
“Create a simile or metaphor for this sentence: [insert your point]”
“Write a list of present participles for case parentheticals, emphasize [insert your goal]:”
“Make this writing more creative [or insert any other descriptor]: [insert your text]”
“I want you to act as a storyteller. You will come up with entertaining stories that are engaging, imaginative and captivating for the audience.”
“I want you to act as a synonyms provider. I will tell you a word, and you will reply to me with a list of synonym alternatives. Words should exist. Do not write explanations.”
You can also ask GPT more open-ended questions to improve sentence style—and as always, the more guidance you give it about what you want improved, the better. For example, we asked GPT (after some fine-tuning):
What could be better about this sentence: “The boy cried and whined."
GPT’s response: “This sentence is a bit repetitive. The word ‘cried’ implies the action of whining, so the word ‘whined’ isn't necessary. Try something like, ‘The boy sobbed …”
And with some follow-up questions we got even better ideas for improving the sentence.
Grammar and Writing Mechanics
Mechanics and grammar are one of those well-defined topics GPT can be very helpful with. For example:
“Correct the use of “affect” [insert any other word usage you are unsure of] in this sentence: “[insert sentence to be improved]”
“Correct the punctuation in this sentence: “[insert sentence to be improved]”
“Correct the [insert other grammatical issue you are unsure of] in this sentence: “[insert sentence to be improved]”
“What is a [insert grammar or other term that you can never remember, like a present participle]:”
Summarizing text that you want to use or quickly get up to speed is another GPT superpower, because you’re giving the AI a defined set of information for it to work with. For example:
“Summarize this text for a third grader:” [insert text to be simplified for your readers, especially legal text]
“Summarize the main arguments in this brief:” [insert key brief text]
“Create a professional email summary of these notes from my meeting:” [insert meeting notes]
“Summarize [statute or regulation] and keep it to one paragraph.”
“Summarize the information in this table using plain language [insert table data]”
Paraphrasing or Selecting Quotes
GPT is great for paraphrasing quotes to avoid plagiarism, and it’s also helpful in selecting helpful portions of long quotes to use in your writing. This is another task that has GPT focus on defined text, so it really excels at it.
“Paraphrase this quote [insert quotation]” You can also add other parameters, like limiting the length of the paraphrase or suggesting style improvements you’d like to see.
“Incorporate the most important portion of this quote into the sentence: [Insert sentence with cumbersome quote contained within it]”
Drafting Documents or Sections of Documents
GPT is great for giving you some starter text for a common procedural section, a template for a document like a contract or motion, or just to start writing your document so you can get something on the page with a rough structure. Again, consider GPT as a fantastic brainstormer. The value of getting some ideas for organization and structure—and starter text—is significant. Especially if you’re writing something unfamiliar.
“Write a motion to dismiss a complaint in a car accident case.”
“Write two paragraphs about the legal standard for summary judgment.”
“Write a demand letter about [insert factual and legal topics].”
“Write an email to an attorney regarding [insert factual and legal topics].”
“Write an outline for [insert whatever sort of document you are writing].”
“Write a contract about [insert contextual facts].”
Brainstorming ideas is a great way to use GPT. But realize that the more it’s being creative, the less you can trust any facts or data it gives you. Consider GPT here a muse rather than a writer. For example:
“Brainstorm interview questions for a witness involved in [insert facts].”
“Brainstorm questions for a deposition of a witness involving [insert facts].”
“Write a theme for two people fighting over [insert description of the factual disputes in your case].”
“Write a theme for two people fighting over [insert description of the legal disputes in your case].”
“Write a metaphor for [insert context].”
“Brainstorm ideas for [insert whatever you’re struggling with and use follow-ups to get better and better ideas!].”
Extracting Information from Text
GPT is great at working with defined text. Consider some fun legal writing tasks to try out. But remember, particularly with organizational tasks like this—examples of how you want GPT’s responses formatted will help a lot:
“Extract all of the sentences that use passive voice in a table:” [insert your text]
“Extract all the adverbs in this text in a table:” [insert your text]
“Extract all [whatever grammar or writing mechanics issue you are working on]: [insert your text]”
“Create a numbered list of [insert what you would like numbered and formatted into a list]”
You can also use this extraction task for other routine things you need to do in your legal writing:
“Create a spreadsheet formula for [insert your goal].”
“Extract all the numbers from this text: [insert your text]”
“Extract all the dollar amounts from this text: [insert your text]”
“Create a table from this data: [insert your data]” It can be helpful to add parameters like “two column table where the first column contains ___ and the other column contains ___.”
“List every time the word [insert words or language you’re trying to make a point about in another text like a brief] is used in this text: [insert text]”
Classification is another useful task for GPT. If you need to organize information from your case’s facts, or cases and holdings—or anything else you can think of, GPT has your back.
“List these cases in alphabetical order:” [insert your cases]
“List all the statements made by [insert party] in this transcript.”
“List these cases in order of year:” [insert your cases]
“List these cases in order of courts that decided them:” [insert your cases]
GPT is great at creating images, diagrams, and other visuals. If you’re looking for an engaging PowerPoint slide, GPT is great at helping you make something. And you can use most of the same prompt engineering tools, but this time, guide the AI in whatever style of image you’d like.
More to Explore!
GPT can help with other things, too, including substantive help. Here are some more experimental ideas for improving your legal writing:
“I want you to act as a fallacy finder. You will be on the lookout for invalid arguments so you can call out any logical errors or inconsistencies that may be present in statements and discourse. Your job is to provide evidence-based feedback and point out any fallacies, faulty reasoning, false assumptions, or incorrect conclusions which may have been overlooked by the writer.
More GPT Legal Writing Examples for Inspiration
To bring all this together, here are some examples of fun ways we use GPT to help legal writers improve their craft. Note: We use a fine-tuned model we have created, so our answers may differ from the ones you get, but with some follow-up, you should be able to do similar things.
Summarize this text into one paragraph introduction to a motion to dismiss:
[We provided five paragraphs of background facts and legal arguments covered in the motion]
GPT’s response: Plaintiff Dolores A. West claims that Park Healthcare Incorporated threatened her with illegal fees when the company included a general advisory notice in an invoice about unpaid services she received from one of Park’s diagnostic labs. But courts have ruled that a defendant can not be liable for informing a consumer about a valid cost, and the potential costs mentioned in the invoice were valid ones under Illinois law. Even if the invoice somehow misrepresented a cost, it was still not an actionable threat under Illinois law. The plaintiff also does not provide any specific facts showing that Park actually knew the cost threatened was illegal, which is another reason to dismiss her complaint.
To get this excellent introduction, we had to run follow-ups that guided GPT in three areas:
Use shorter transitions (like "but") instead of formal ones.
Use the plaintiff's name.
Refer to the parties by a shorter name after the first time the full name is listed.
Let’s look at a quick example of simple routine extraction and classification tasks, so that you have a better idea of how to use these. You’ll notice that we use a few-shot prompt (we give a couple of examples to get GPT started so it knows the formatting and what information we are interested in).
Create labels for these exhibits. Make each exhibit label descriptive:
1. "The Deposition of Jim Parker"
2. August 10, 2020, Police Report"
3. "The Deposition of Mark Davis"
4. "September 12, 2022 Police Report"
1. Parker Deposition
2. August Police Report
[The two Exhibit labels here are examples to get GPT started]
3. Davis Deposition
4. September Police Report”
Here are a couple of examples using GPT to improve sentence style:
Create an analogy for this phrase: Late filings in court are…
GPT’s response: like a late arrival to a wedding—they are both unwelcome and can disrupt the proceedings.
I am trying to improve the verb in this sentence. I want to use a verb that makes the action sound worse: The plaintiff is not filing the appropriate paperwork.
GPT’s response: How about "The plaintiff is flagrantly disregarding the appropriate paperwork"?
I like flagrantly, but can you come up with another instead of disregard?”
GPT’s response: "The plaintiff is blatantly ignoring the appropriate paperwork"?
Can you improve the verb in this sentence to make it more concrete: The statute has restrictions that affect plaintiff alone.
GPT’s response: "The statute has stringent restrictions that single out the plaintiff"?
"has" is still a weak verb. I am looking for better verbs.
GPT’s response: "The statute imposes restrictions that exclusively target the plaintiff"?
What is a present participle?
GPT’s response: “A present participle is a verb form that ends in -ing and is used to describe an action that is in progress. Examples include: running, jumping, talking, eating, sleeping, etc.”
What is wrong with this sentence: “The lawyers was wrong once again.”
GPT’s response: This sentence is incorrect because it should be "The lawyer was wrong once again." "Lawyers" is plural, so it should be "were" instead of "was."
Which of these is correct?
They’re ignoring key cases.
The courthouse is over their.
There arguments are not persuasive.
GPT’s response: They're ignoring key cases.
GPT is great at analyzing your text and doing simple jobs that may take you 15 minutes, but for GPT, takes only seconds. Here’s a fun one if you are looking for insight into your writing—here, whether you use too many glue-words like prepositions:
Create a table of the prepositions in this paragraph:
“ChatGPT will make up answers, which is a serious problem when relying on it for factual answers. To improve its factual capability, though, you can provide ground truths to keep in mind, and you can also provide the tool with a body of text to use as support. Finally, you can show the tool how to say I don’t know when it doesn’t know the answer so that it will be less inclined to make up answers.”
[The above is me providing a couple of examples to help guide GPT about the formatting I’m looking for. You can see how good GPT is at recognizing the pattern and continuing it]
Key GPT Terms to Know
The specific tasks you give to GPT, like “write” or “order alphabetically.”
Providing background information for GPT prompts.
Constructing the guidance for GPT to get the best results for your goals.
How determinative GPT is. If there is only one answer, set the temperature low. If you want GPT to explore many possible answers, turn the temperature up.
Providing examples to GPT to help it understand what you want, how you want responses formatted, and more.
Chain-of-thought guidance so that GPT will carry out reasoned steps.
This refers to an AI believing something is true when it’s actually inaccurate.
A property of language models, where the prediction of the next token depends on the previous tokens generated by the model itself, rather than just on the input of a single question.
Adapting a pre-trained model for a specific task by training it on a set of your data.
GPT (Generative Pre-trained Transformer )
The AI language model developed by OpenAI and the most advanced and powerful model OpenAI offers to the public (and that fuels ChatGPT).
A search algorithm used in Natural Language Processing (NLP) to find the most likely sequence of tokens generated by a language model, by selecting the most likely token at each time step. This can lead to poor responses, especially when several steps in reasoning are needed to get to the right answer.
An AI model that has been trained to generate text based on patterns it has learned from a large corpus of text data.
NLP (Natural Language Processing)
A subfield of AI focused on the interaction between computers and humans using natural language.
Part-of-Speech Tagging (POS)
A task in NLP that involves labeling each word in a sentence with its grammatical role, such as noun, verb, or adjective. This is part of why GPT is so good at analyzing our text for style and grammar improvements.
A basic unit of meaning in NLP, representing a single word, punctuation mark, or another piece of text. OpenAI’s paid plans charge you per the tokens used in your prompt and GPT’s response.
The ability of a language model to perform a task it has not seen before, based on its understanding of the language and the knowledge it has learned from pre-training. GPT can do quite a lot of zero-shot work, which is part of what makes it so powerful.
Final Thoughts for GPT and Legal Writers
GPT can be a fantastic legal writing partner. It can help you brainstorm. It can prod you to look at a sentence or paragraph or topic in a new way. It can help you organize or extract information from just about any text.
But getting good results will require some trial and error. This is the most powerful AI ever created, but that also means this is a complicated AI brain that doesn’t always think like we humans do. So know what GPT is good at, and what it will need some help to figure out. And then know what things it just isn’t helpful for. If you aren’t sure, try it out. If you learn that this tool isn’t a good fit for a task—great, now you know. When it is helpful, come back and try again in the next project. This is the same advice for more tech tools out there. It’s all about learning what the tool is useful for, how to get it to work well, and when to ditch the tool because it’s more hassle than it’s worth.
Write.law co-founder Joe Regalia combines his experience as both practitioner and professor to create exciting new ways to teach legal skills. Learn more about Joe
Sign up for our newsletter!
Get writing and other legal practice tips delivered to your inbox every other Thursday.
Thanks for joining!
We’ve sent a welcome email to your inbox.
We’ve sent a welcome email to your inbox.
SAVE 50% DURING PRE-SALE
GPT for Legal Writers
Get Write.law’s groundbreaking course on how to use OpenAI’s ChatGPT to revolutionize your legal writing!