Ironclad Journal icon Ironclad BLOG

What Generative AI Tech Will and Won’t Do for Legal Teams

May 23, 2023 6 min read
graphic representation of generative ai

Generative AI has set the knowledge industry on fire. OpenAI’s ChatGPT became the fastest growing consumer app in history, reaching 100 million monthly users in just two months. For context, it took TikTok nine months to get to 100m, and Instagram two and-a-half years.

The GenAI application space has exploded with both general use and purpose-specific apps built atop GPT-4 and other large language models (LLMs). LLMs excel at text-based tasks like summarization and reasoning, and in natural language processing (NLP). In other words, they’re really good at understanding — and mimicking — the way humans speak and write. ChatGPT caught fire because it made GPT-4’s vast capabilities accessible to most anyone, thanks to its familiar, easy to use chatbot interface. But generative AI’s prowess extends beyond writing to creating computer code, images, audio/video, and most any other type of data a computer can generate. Hence the recent explosion of fake pizza ads and high-quality but highly improbable buddy memes.

Knowledge workers across all industries, legal ops professionals included, are experimenting with generative AI in their workflows — and already with great success. General purpose chatbots, writing and presentation apps, and AI-powered legal technology solutions like CLM can all be used to automate tasks, save time, and help unlock collaboration and creativity on legal teams and throughout businesses.

What can generative AI do for legal teams right now?

Here’s a small sample of ways generative AI can help your legal team today:

  • Summarize legal documents: Gen AI excels at summarizing text, and can work through long documents in seconds.
  • Extract business insights: Take gen AI’s summarization powers a step further, and train it on your contracts. Pattern recognition is an AI superpower: Gen AI can comb through all of your old contract data and turn up insights and trends about how your business does business.
  • Review and redline contracts: The first ever generative AI-powered contracting tool to be publicly released hit the market recently, using GPT-4 to instantly redline contracts based on pre-approved clause language.
  • Brainstorm: ChatGPT’s conversational style makes it the perfect brainstorming partner. Whether you’re drafting language for a new contract or looking for a fresh negotiating angle, gen AI chatbots are great for generating ideas. The more specific and focused the brainstorming gets, the better the bots’ suggestions become.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, both in terms of what generative AI can do today, and what’s right around the corner. Remember, not only is AI development not about to stop, it’s only getting faster. Let’s move on to what the future may hold for legal tech.

What will AI do in the near future?

Philosophers and scientists have been thinking about artificial intelligence for a long time; however, advances in the field have greatly accelerated in the past decade with the advent of deep learning and big data. And we’re moving even faster today, full-speed ahead towards a true “Intelligence Explosion” built on the backs of the latest LLMs. Artificial Intelligence experts, like this team of Microsoft scientists, say they’re already “seeing sparks” of artificial general intelligence (eg, human-level capabilities) in GPT-4:

Beyond its mastery of language, GPT-4 can solve novel and difficult tasks that span mathematics, coding, vision, medicine, law, psychology and more, without needing any special prompting. Moreover, in all of these tasks, GPT-4’s performance is strikingly close to human-level performance, and often vastly surpasses prior models such as ChatGPT. Given the breadth and depth of GPT-4’s capabilities, we believe that it could reasonably be viewed as an early (yet still incomplete) version of an artificial general intelligence (AGI) system.

  The next step towards AGI may well be AI Agents. An AI agent is a program that can act on its own, learning from its experiences, and leveraging tools along its way. Give an agent a task and it will break it into subtasks, execute those subtasks — say, by autonomously writing and running computer code — and then evaluate the results to inform its next set of tasks. The agent will continue on until its objectives have been met, or it runs out of resources (eg, computing power, memory, and GPT-4 usage credits).

Imagine, then, what a legal ops pro could do with a well-tuned fleet of AI Agents at her disposal?

  • Task one agent with reviewing and redlining all incoming contract proposals
  • Task another agent with generating and evaluating negotiation strategies
  • Task a third agent with analyzing all active contracts and looking for opportunities based on milestones, incentives, and other key data
  • Task a fourth agent with big picture business analysis and forecasting based on everything the first three agents are doing
  • And, finally, task a fifth agent with generating slide presentations and persuasive messaging to help executives and other stakeholders understand the analysis and forecasting

We may not be quite at the point of pulling off this kind of AI agent magic just yet, but it’s not far off! Ironclad AI can already handle the first four jobs on the list, and there are plenty of AI-powered presentation and writing tools on the market to help with the fifth. Not only will we soon have reliable agents to string them all together, but the agents will be offering up new ideas as they work, to boot.

What won’t AI do for legal teams?

For all artificial intelligence already excels at, and all the rapid progress we expect from the field, there are some things AI just can’t do:

  • Complex legal strategy and decision making: Generative AI is great at summarizing large volumes of information, reasoning through clearly-defined problems, and working tirelessly towards an objective. All of which makes it a great assistant and brainstorming partner. Our best technology can’t match the human mind when it comes to complex legal decision making and strategy informed by on-the-job experience.
  • Empathy/emotional intelligence in client relationships: Empathic AI is a thing, but it’s a thing currently still in its early stages. Though scientists may one day train computers to understand human emotions and empathize with our collective plight, human emotional intelligence is still unmatched — and an invaluable asset when it comes to negotiating, in particular.
  • Understanding local laws, regulations, and cultural nuances: Reciting the law is one thing, but interpreting it in practice can be quite another. When it comes to the nuances of the many, many local customs, practices, and regulations that make working in San Francisco different from doing business in Dubai, nothing beats the human touch.
  • Know how to handle edge cases: AI lives on data. The more you feed it, the better it gets. But if a particular type of case or situation arises that’s especially unique — something with, say, only two or three precedents in the past fifty years — AI may not have much to say about it that’s particularly helpful.
  • Balance risk and business needs: Generative AI tech is powerful, but it’s still its early days, so the potential for it to introduce risk to businesses that use it is relatively high. Just look at the headlines Samsung recently made over a ChatGPT-induced data leak. Right now, only human intelligence can really decide what’s worth it and what’s not, especially for their own specific use cases.

We’re still early in the race.

The past six months have been positively head-spinning in the AI world. ChatGPT opened the door for a mainstream audience to experience what tech insiders already knew: Generative AI and LLMs, in particular, are incredibly powerful tools for a wide variety of applications. As developers and entrepreneurs build industry-specific applications on top of AI models, we’ll see more and more reliable functionality created for real world legal tasks. Our approach is to help legal teams slice through the rote work they don’t want to do so they can focus on the interesting problems they went to law school to solve. The coming months and years promise to be incredibly excited in this regard, and as Ironclad AI attests to, we’re in it for the long haul.

Still, like any technology, AI has its limitations, and it’s vital to keep a human in the loop, as the expression goes. Generative AI is a powerful tool that’s only as good as the prompts its user gives it, and the humans who make use of its responses. AI won’t replace human expertise in legal teams, but it will help them be more effective.




Ironclad is not a law firm, and this post does not constitute or contain legal advice. To evaluate the accuracy, sufficiency, or reliability of the ideas and guidance reflected here, or the applicability of these materials to your business, you should consult with a licensed attorney. Use of and access to any of the resources contained within Ironclad’s site do not create an attorney-client relationship between the user and Ironclad.

Want more content like this? Sign up for our monthly newsletter.

Book your live demo

Cai GoGwilt is CTO and Co-Founder of Ironclad. Before founding Ironclad, he was a software engineer at Palantir Technologies. He holds a B.S. and M.Eng. in Computer Science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.