ChatGPT and other applications using generative AI have astonished the world with their ability to create human-sounding content in seconds. Unsurprisingly, marketing agencies and businesses have been racing to determine how best to use AI to improve efficiency and cut costs.
Law firms are no exception, and lawyers and legal marketing agencies are undoubtedly wondering whether they can use generative AI to create online marketing materials like blogs and practice area pages.
Whether AI can write law firm content is the wrong question to be asking – it’s better to ask how AI can inform and improve the content creation process.
The last thing a lawyer or marketing agency that works with law firms should do is turn their content creation efforts over to AI completely. That said, ChatGPT can certainly assist with the content creation process in many ways – but first, let’s look at why AI can’t handle law firm content writing without significant human (and expert) oversight.
Google Has Higher Standards for Legal Websites
For the uninitiated, this is going to sound like a word salad: if you have a law firm website, it is a YMYL site that needs good E-E-A-T. In order to understand what this means, let’s break each element down.
Your Money or Your Life (YMYL)
Google designates sites that can affect a user’s health, safety, finances, or happiness as “Your Money or Your Life” sites – often abbreviated as “YMYL.” Because these sites can have a significant impact on users’ lives, it has a higher standard regarding the content on the site. Specifically, it needs to ensure that the content on those sites is accurate and trustworthy – which can be demonstrated by content that signals E-E-A-T.
Experience, Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness
In evaluating content and the overall quality of a page, Google considers experience, expertise, authority, and trustworthiness (E-E-A-T). Additionally, it considers trust the most important element of E-E-A-T. Here’s how Google itself introduces E-E-A-T in its Search Quality Rater Guidelines document (PQ means “page quality” ):
It’s critical for law firm websites to include content that demonstrates E-E-A-T. For example, you can demonstrate experience and expertise by providing robust educational and professional information about a firm’s attorneys.
To establish authoritativeness, you should make sure that your site is the go-to place for legal information in your practice area. Finally, to build trust – the most important factor in E-E-A-T – your site’s content needs to be accurate, honest, safe, and reliable. This brings us to our first problem with ChatGPT’s content…
It May Provide Incorrect Information
Lawyers have to provide accurate information on their websites. One of the major (and seemingly intractable) issues with generative AI is that it can confidently provide incorrect information. In a textbook example of doublespeak, the AI industry has termed this phenomenon “hallucination” rather than just stating the fact that AI does not know whether its output is true or not. The most concerning part is that AI creators can’t figure out why it’s happening.
In its Search Quality Rater Guidelines, Google makes it clear that the most important element of E-E-A-T is trust. Furthermore, in order to establish trust, “informational pages on clear YMYL topics must be accurate to prevent harm to people and society.”
Clearly, the fact that ChatGPT can generate incorrect information is a serious problem for law firms and law firm marketing agencies. Putting content with factual errors on a legal website could significantly affect its E-E-A-T rating, potentially causing a drop in rankings. Perhaps more importantly, incorrect information could result in disciplinary action from the state bar – or even a malpractice lawsuit from a client that relied on incorrect information found on the site.
ChatGPT May Violate Advertising Rules
Lawyer advertising is subject to complicated rules that vary from state to state. For example, in many jurisdictions, an attorney cannot refer to themselves as a “specialist” or an “expert” in any area of law. In others, a lawyer can call themselves an expert if they have become board certified as one in a specific area of law.
You may be thinking that it’s easy enough to tell ChatGPT not to use certain words – and that’s true. But consider a more subjective rule – for example, how Model Rule 7.1 prohibits lawyers from making false or misleading statements, which includes guaranteeing certain outcomes. There is a subtle difference between saying, “Our firm can get you compensation,” and “Our firm can get you the compensation to which you are entitled,” as the second one allows for the possibility that your client is not entitled to any compensation at all.
Generative AI Produces Generic Content – and it May Plagiarize.
Quality content that demonstrates experience, expertise, authority, and trustworthiness is typically unique, compelling, and useful to the reader. It is not just repackaged content that users can find elsewhere on the web. Gavin Muller put it pretty well in a recent piece in The Atlantic.:
Because large language models generate text probabilistically based on the universe of existing content, mediocrity is built into the package.
Suppose you play around with ChatGPT and ask it to create content. In that case, you’ll realize that it often generates extremely similar responses to the same prompt – and there’s a good chance that law firms all over the country are going to be asking it to generate content on issues like “what to do after a car accident” or “is Chapter 7 or 13 bankruptcy right for me.” Not only can these prompts result in generic, soulless content – they may also end up plagiarizing existing content on the web.
But don’t take our word for it; compare these two responses for yourself:
This repetition should come as no surprise, however. ChatGPT and other generative AI models are built on Large Language Models, which can be best described as extremely advanced predictive text. In other words, the models use complex algorithms to “guess’ what the next word “should” be, and it’s been trained on about 100 trillion parameters of existing data. So while what it can do is certainly impressive, in the end, it is simply parroting back information that it has read.
You Probably Don’t Own ChatGPT Content
Another issue that law firms and marketing agencies should consider is that purely AI-generated content is not copyrightable. Earlier this year, the United States Copyright Office issued guidance on AI-generated works and reaffirmed the “human authorship requirement.”
This requirement is exactly what it sounds like – humans need to author content in order for it to be eligible for copyright protection. As stated in the guidance:
In the Office’s view, it is well-established that copyright can protect only material that is the product of human creativity. Most fundamentally, the term “author,” which is used in both the Constitution and the Copyright Act, excludes non-humans.
Further in the document, the Office explains that AI-generated works that have significant human authorship may be eligible for copyright protection, but whether they do will be decided on a case-by-case basis. In addition, it clarifies that simply providing a prompt is not sufficient to meet the human authorship requirement.
ChatGPT: What is it Good For?
Now that we’ve addressed some of the issues with using generative AI to create law firm content, it’s only fair that we explore how attorneys and agencies can use it to improve the content creation process.
Coming Up with Topic Ideas
Sometimes, the hardest part of creating content is figuring out what to write about, and ChatGPT is great at coming up with blog topics (although it can get repetitive here, too). That said, you need to know how to prompt it to get usable results. Fortunately, the team at Lexicon Legal Content has created a free AI-Powered Legal Blog Topic Generator tool that you can use to come up with state and practice area-specific blog topics in a matter of seconds. Here is an example of what it can do:
Getting Past Writer’s Block
Helping creators get started on creating content is another place that ChatGPT shines. Sometimes, you can spend more time staring at the blank page than you actually do creating content. Asking ChatGPT to provide an introduction or an outline is often enough to get past writer’s block and into the process of creating great content that your readers will love.
Creating Lists and Boilerplate Sections
If you get to a point where you need to list out the causes of slip and fall accidents or types of medical malpractice, ChatGPT can save you a significant amount of time. It can generate lists in a matter of seconds, saving you the time of racking your brain for examples and writing it yourself. Likewise, suppose you want to write a call to action that registers as unique to Google but still conveys the same information you wrote. In that case, ChatGPT can do a good job of rewriting existing content and creating another variation.
Summarizing Information for Social Media Posts, Meta Descriptions, or other Short Form Content
Once you’ve written your blog post, practice area page, or other long-form content, you will likely want to create a two or three-sentence summary in order to add a meta description or share it on social media. ChatGPT can help create this type of content in a matter of seconds, speeding up the process of getting your content published and in front of the people you want to see it.
In Conclusion: ChatGPT is a Tool that Needs Expert Oversight
So, can ChatGPT write law firm content? No, unless you are willing to risk publishing incorrect information and violating lawyer advertising rules – but it can certainly help speed up the process. In the end, generative AI is an assistant that will make the content creation process more efficient in all industries, but it needs expert oversight, especially in YMYL areas like law, medicine, and finance.
At Lexicon Legal Content, we’re harnessing the power of AI to provide amazing content that engages readers and turns website visitors into clients. Our expert team of legal content writers can create content in any legal practice area for any jurisdiction. Call us today to find out how we can help your firm stand out from the competition.