Legal Operations and Generative AI: Preparing for a Sea Change - Priori

Legal Operations and Generative AI: Preparing for a Sea Change

By Priori Legal

 23-04-24 CLOC Talk Recap Blog Post

Priori Co-Founder and CEO Basha Rubin joined the CLOC Talk podcast to discuss AI’s effect on legal

The hype around generative artificial intelligence (AI) is at its zenith and it’s on the minds of every legal operations and legal technology professional. A recent Goldman Sachs report estimated that generative AI can automate as much as 44% of legal work. With products like ChatGPT, Microsoft’s Bing (which also uses ChatGPT through the company’s partnership with OpenAI) or Google’s Bard plunging us forward into the artificial intelligence-assisted future, it feels like the legal industry, not to mention the world at large, is on the cusp of a paradigm shift. 

In a recent episode of the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium’s (CLOC) podcast, CLOC Talk, host Jenn McCarron, Director of Legal Operations & Technology at Netflix noted how some have compared this feeling to the shift from desktop to mobile or on-premises software to software as a service (SaaS). Guests Basha Rubin, Co-Founder and CEO of Priori, and Jacqueline Schafer, Founder and CEO of Clearbrief, discussed this upcoming “sea change” with McCarron and co-host Tommie Ferreira, Head of Legal Operations at Cedar.

An Optimistic Outlook for Legal

While there is certainly reason to have alarmist thoughts about the potential of AI—Rubin brings up its potential to create misinformation particularly in the form of deep fakes—the general tenor on AI and its legal applications was optimistic. “I think it’s a rising tide for the industry,” says Rubin. 

Schafer pointed to how her company’s product, Clearbrief, generates citations and tables of authority using AI, giving lawyers a good starting point for their work and eliminating some of the busywork that lawyers are often tasked with. “It’s going to make lawyers’ jobs more interesting,” says Rubin. “Lawyers do a lot of really boring work.” Ferreira echoed her comments: “Lawyers who are worried that this is going to replace them will not be replaced by technology, they will be replaced by the lawyer that embraces it.” 

Moving Beyond the Marketing Hype

OpenAI’s ChatGPT dominates the conversation surrounding generative AI, however it is just one of many products that will comprise a market PitchBook estimates will reach $98.6 billion by 2026. Compared to previous iterations of AI, one of the big leaps forward that this new boom represents is its ability to create new content from prompts. 

Those in the legal operations and legal technology industries have probably seen the term “AI” used before in many different contexts, but it was generally a case where the AI read text that already existed and recognized patterns and connections, returning useful information based on those inputs more quickly than it would take to look them up. An example is AI-enhanced contract drafting software. “What I’m used to and have been working with for a few years is you have a machine-learning algorithm inside a tech product like a contract product and it can … give you scores on likeness between things and/or find the thing,” says McCarron. “And it goes and it brings back everything close, but it’s not generating or wasn’t generating until some of those tech vendors have now added that component.” 

The uses of generative AI for the legal space are myriad, from the way Clearbrief can get citations started based on prompts to products like Harvey, which PwC announced it will use to help generate insights and recommendations. During the discussion, Ferreira pondered if a product might come that could analyze briefs that have won in front of particular judges and help lawyers write briefs that might be more persuasive for their specific audiences. 

How Will AI Shape the Future? 

AI will likely make lawyer’s jobs easier (or, at least, more interesting) for some tasks, however the effects it may have on the legal profession could be the real legacy of the technology. Schafer pointed to its potential to improve access to justice for people who want legal representation but can’t get it for whatever reason. “This can actually really empower people who are involved in the legal system,” she says. “They have their content; they know their story. Maybe [AI] could help them say it in a way that would get better results.” 

Rubin points to the recent headlines about ChatGPT passing the bar exam as a potential inflection point for re-examining education and professional training. “The bar exam is memorizing and regurgitating information,” she says. “That is not actually a useful set of skills for being a lawyer. Why don’t we use this as a moment to rethink how we’re training people?” The reliance on written outputs required to test and license students and professionals of all kinds might become obsolete if that same work can be done by AI. It could—and maybe should—force these institutions to consider a new way of training that prepares people for the kind of critical thinking that only humans can do (for now). 

Ultimately, the group echoed its optimism for AI in the legal industry when talking about humanity at large. Although sci-fi concerns of a machine takeover may linger in the background, the real takeaway from this exciting moment is generative AI’s ability to enhance the way humans live and work. Schafer described a future where using products like ChatGPT will be seen the same way as using a calculator—how many people are still doing long division by hand, or using an abacus? And Rubin compared it to the industrial revolution in its ability to give humans more free time to focus on the interesting problems that require our attention and can often be blocked by rote work. 

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