The one skill lawyers need to use Generative AI

Most lawyers don’t instruct others very well. They provide too little information, or they don’t provide enough context, or they fail to identify what they don’t want. If you were ever told by a senior lawyer to do something, and then got yelled at because you didn’t bring back what they wanted, you know exactly what it’s like to be on the receiving end of poor instruction. As a profession, we can’t afford that shortcoming anymore.

Because Generative AI behaves like a person, we need to work with it like a person, which means providing the necessary explanation, relevant detail, and precise directions that will allow it to achieve the big-picture goal. We need to know how to instruct. Gen AI doesn’t make that skill irrelevant. I think it makes it essential.

If you hope to get the most out of the Generative AI programs that will soon be rolling into law firms and showing up in standard office software, you need to hone your ability to instruct. You do that by following the four steps of strategic legal reasoning:

See the Big Picture:

Understand the overarching objective: Determine the ultimate goal or desired outcome that the problem is obstructing. This understanding should align with the client’s perspective, be it a business, social, or individual context.

Examine the Problem:

Thoroughly understand the problem: Analyze the problem from various perspectives, considering contributing factors that led to its emergence. Identify how the problem impedes the achievement of the overarching objective.

Acknowledge Your Parameters:

Recognize limitations: Understand the constraints within which you operate, including factors like time, personnel, and resources. Prioritize practical solutions that can work within these limitations while still aiming for an ideal resolution.

Exclude For Relevance:

Apply legal reasoning skills: Use legal reasoning to filter out irrelevant aspects that do not contribute to the primary objective. Similar to a sculptor chiseling away unnecessary parts of a block of marble, identify elements that can be excluded to streamline efforts toward achieving the desired outcome.

then compressing your understanding of the present problem into a detailed yet precise set of directions that ask for a solution, leaving out nothing important and including nothing irrelevant. 

The ability to effectively instruct — whether a flesh-and-blood assistant or, more commonly from now on, an artificial one — is the key high-value skill required of lawyers in the AI age. Law schools should teach it in every class, regulators should test it as a core competence for licensure, and law firms should make it one of the centrepieces of their professional development programs.

Source: Jordan Furlong



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