Artificial Intelligence is seeping into all realms of life, and the legal sector is no different. The introduction of new AI tools to help lawyers marks a step towards revolutionising the way in which the legal sector and lawyers function.
With technology constantly evolving in today’s era, its involvement and assimilation in our daily lives is unavoidable. This has led to law firms across the globe investing in technological tools to aid their efficiency and profitability. With the recent announcement of Magic Circle law firm Allen & Overy’s (A&O) implementation of AI (artificial intelligence) chatbots into their legal practice marking the beginning of a new tech-assisted legal sphere.
The start of 2023 saw A&O begin to integrate their new ChatGPT-style tool across their 43 global offices. The AI chatbot, named Harvey, is intended to help lawyers with a variety of legal tasks, such as contract analysis, due diligence, and much more. A&O trialled Harvey in November 2022, with the end of the trial period resulting in 3,500 lawyers asking around 40,000 legal work queries. The success of the trial period enabled an implementation of Harvey.
A&O were able to complete this trial after receiving a $5 million fund from the company behind ChatGPT, OpenAI. Just like ChatGPT, Harvey uses natural language processing, machine learning and data analytics in order to answer questions and complete tasks asked in natural language. As a result of this specific legal branch of ChatGPT, Harvey is able to use large language models to understand the users’ intention with their question and then provide a correct, jargon appropriate output. Therefore, reducing the amount of manual editing and research lawyers need to complete.
The decision to implement such AI technology comes from an ever-increasing pressure for the legal world to join other sectors in using technology to deliver its work more efficiently. However, A&O have put out a disclaimer that Harvey’s output does require “careful review” by its lawyers, and it is currently in a beta phase. Although the firm will continue to use Harvey, as based on large volumes of data it is able to generate recommendations and predictions which will ultimately revolutionise the way lawyers deliver solutions to their client’s cases. The speed, knowledge, capacity and breadth of research at which Harvey is able to provide solutions far surpasses that of human capability, within the same time frame.
Harvey’s co-founder Gabriel Pereya, in an interview with TechCrunch said that Harvey was not created as a replacement for lawyers, but an intermediary, “co-pilot for lawyers” that enables lawyers to focus on the high-value parts of their job, and reduce the time spent on editing and research of legal documents. This does however greatly impact the paralegal sector. Pereya does address the issue of client privacy and confidentiality in the interview, stating that Harvey does try to anonymise user data and delete this data after a certain amount of time, with the user option to delete the data at any time being available also. He also adds a further disclaimer, stating that Harvey should only be used by licensed lawyers, and is not for those without a legal licence. With many concerns over the use of AI in general, the legal sector in particular has its own individual set of concerns; primarily the issue which has many in the legal field concerned is that of the role of human judgement - which AI is unable to take into account when making decisions. The importance of creativity and strategy in law is what makes certain lawyers great, and the removal of this aspect of their role is a cause for concern.
David Wakeling, head of markets innovation group at A&O described the implementation of Harvey as being “a game-changer that can unleash the power of generative AI to transform the legal industry”. The unprecedented nature of A&O’s Harvey has sparked a transformation in the legal sector with many more firms across the globe surely joining the AI pathway. DLA Piper is just one who has recently introduced data scientists to help them capitalise on the upcoming AI legal boom.
It is clear that AI tools such as ChatGPT are going to transform and revolutionise the legal sphere in the years to come. Although it is early days the legal landscape is already evolving and the question of how far this AI revolution will go is yet to be seen.