Generative AI and prompt engineering: the future of legal work

Revolutionising efficiency and accuracy

Author: Michal Morrison - Manager, Deloitte Legal Poland -

Imagine harnessing an eager, infinitely scalable apprentice capable of performing complex tasks with precision and speed - that's the promise of generative AI, the cutting-edge technology revolutionising legal departments worldwide. No longer a distant vision of the future, this technology is now an integral part of today's legal infrastructure, delivering unprecedented levels of efficiency and accuracy.

The transformative power of generative AI lies in its ability to produce human-like text, enabling legal professionals to automate mundane yet essential tasks such as contract drafting, legal research and document review. Today, incorporating these advanced tools into legal practices isn't just an option; it's rapidly becoming the industry norm.

The excitement doesn't stop there. We are now on the verge of a new frontier: prompt engineering. The art and science of crafting effective prompts to guide AI responses, tailoring the output of generative AI to meet specific legal needs (and not only legal!).

By combining generative AI with prompt engineering, we're not just tweaking the present - we're inventing the future. This combination promises a revolution that will fundamentally change the way we think about legal operations. The future is here, and it will redefine the landscape of legal practice.

Current landscape of legal departments

Legal departments around the world serve as the foundation for organisational compliance and strategic decision-making. Tasked with everything from drafting contracts to ensuring regulatory compliance and managing litigation risk, these departments are often overwhelmed by labour-intensive processes. Despite the advent of digital, many still rely on traditional methods that are both time-consuming and error-prone.

As businesses become more global and regulations more complex, the challenges facing legal departments are increasing. Interpreting international laws, keeping abreast of regulatory changes, managing a vast array of contracts, and ensuring the speedy resolution of disputes are just some of the demanding tasks they face on a daily basis. Add to this the relentless pressure to reduce operational costs and increase efficiency.

This is where generative AI can be a game changer. By automating repetitive tasks and providing sophisticated legal research tools, AI can help legal professionals manage their growing workloads without compromising quality or accuracy. However, the real game-changer lies in the proper application of prompt engineering in the use of this AI, a factor that could redefine the efficiency and accuracy of legal operations in the coming years.

By fully embracing the promise of generative AI and prompt engineering, legal professionals can revolutionise their practices and deliver unprecedented value to their organisations.

Generative AI and its current applications in legal departments

The application of generative AI in legal departments today is transformative. By automating repetitive tasks such as document review and contract drafting, AI is enabling legal professionals to focus more on strategic tasks. In addition, AI-powered tools are increasingly being used for advanced legal research, quickly sifting through vast legal databases to deliver accurate and relevant results.

Prompt engineering adds a crucial dimension to this AI revolution. By creating precise prompts, we can guide AI responses to specific legal scenarios and requirements. For example, it could generate a first draft of a contract based on a given set of parameters, or provide a summary of a complex legal document. The efficiency, accuracy and time-saving potential of these tools is increasingly being recognised by forward-thinking legal departments. As such, the fusion of generative AI and prompt engineering is setting a new standard for legal operations.

Role of prompt engineering in generative AI

At its core, prompt engineering is about training an AI system, much like an apprentice, to use well-crafted prompts to produce desired results. The goal is to refine the system's ability to generate responses that are most useful to the user, in this case the legal advisor.

Imagine an assistant that, given a specific case reference, could generate a concise summary of the case, including key findings, legal principles applied, and relevance to your current work. Or imagine an AI that, with a simple command, could generate a draft contract or legal notice tailored to your specific needs. This is the potential that effective prompt engineering can unlock.

This process requires a deep understanding of both the AI model and the specific domain — in this case, the legal domain. It involves defining the inputs in such a way that they guide the AI's responses, producing outputs that are most relevant and useful in a legal context. It's like fine-tuning a musical instrument: with the right adjustments, you can produce the perfect melody. Similarly, effective prompt engineering can enhance the utility and accuracy of generative AI in legal departments, leading to a revolution in legal operations and productivity.

Future perspectives: prompt engineering and the evolution of legal work

The potential of generative AI, when harnessed through well-designed prompts, is vast and transformative. Consider the act of legal research. AI algorithms can dissect and analyse complex legal texts, produce summaries or answer specific legal questions with remarkable accuracy and speed. For example, asking the AI to 'summarise the key points of the contract in plain English' may provide more accessible information than a less targeted request. Similarly, asking the AI to 'show its reasoning step by step' allows us to understand the logic behind its conclusions, which can be invaluable in legal analysis.

Prompt engineering can also significantly speed up contract drafting, a traditionally tedious and error-prone task. By feeding AI a contract template or specific clauses as context, we can have it generate drafts based on these inputs, reducing the manual workload and minimising the risk of error.

Similarly, AI can transform risk assessment. For example, it could analyse past cases, rulings and other legal precedents to provide comprehensive assessments of potential litigation risks. An effective prompt might be ‘Identify potential litigation risks based on previous similar cases’.

In addition, the tone of prompts can also influence the AI's output. For example, a prompt that asks for a 'professional tone' will yield a different answer than one that asks for an 'empathetic tone'.

Potential challenges and ethical considerations

While the benefits of generative AI and prompt engineering are clear, it's important to consider the challenges and ethical considerations. Adopting this technology requires significant investment, training and change management. It also raises ethical questions around accountability, transparency and bias.

In addition, the governance of prompts is a critical consideration. It's important that organisations develop clear protocols for the use and management of prompts to ensure consistency, accuracy and effectiveness. This could include a central repository of approved prompts, regular review processes and guidelines for incorporating new contexts, such as contract templates or policy documents, into prompts.

Final thoughts

With generative AI and the practical application of prompt engineering, we are at the dawn of a new era in legal work. The future of the legal profession is one that harnesses these advances to enable efficiency, accuracy and personalisation.

Incorporating context such as contract templates or specific clauses, using desired tones, and asking AI to demonstrate its reasoning are all practical aspects of prompt engineering that can deliver tailored, high-quality results. By adopting these sophisticated techniques, we can turn AI into a personal assistant for every legal professional, capable of enhancing their skills and streamlining their workflow.

However, the journey to this bright future requires careful navigation. Ethical considerations, practical challenges and the governance of prompts all need to be carefully addressed. Establishing protocols for managing prompts to ensure consistency and relevance is as critical as the technological innovation itself.

As we face these fundamental changes, we must recognise that AI is not here to replace us, but to enhance our potential. By embracing these transformative technologies and meeting their challenges head on, we can revolutionise our work and deliver unprecedented value to our clients and our organisations. The future of legal work is here: it's digital, it's personalised, it's efficient and it's accountable, underpinned by the power of generative AI and intelligent prompt engineering.

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