by Heidi Riley
McInnes Cooper is a legal service provider with over 200 lawyers in offices across Atlantic Canada.
“As with many law firms, we are seeing the opportunities AI (Artificial Intelligence) presents and are asking ourselves how to leverage that technology for both our work and for our clients,” says James Mosher, Partner, McInnes Cooper.
“To see how AI could affect the practice of law, we must first consider what it is that lawyers do. The role of a lawyer is to retain a large amount of knowledge and then apply that knowledge to individual scenarios to assist clients to resolve problems.
“Traditionally, lawyers make a lot of effort to implement a solution in the exact same manner as every other lawyer has before. Young lawyers work with senior lawyers for many years, learning how to repeat exactly what the senior lawyer does. To say that the practice of law takes a conservative approach to change is an understatement.
“One of the great features of AI such as ChatGPT is that it can sift through and process vast amounts of information. This is one of the ways that AI can make a big impact in the practice of law.
“ChatGPT was launched about a year ago, and lawyers have started to recognize that this is a technology we can’t ignore. Take for example, a lawyer in New York who used ChatGPT to draft a legal brief for a case in Federal District Court. When ChatGPT spit out in a matter of seconds what would normally take many hours of work, he thought he had struck legal gold. Unfortunately, he failed to understand the technology. The legal brief was filled with fake judicial opinions and legal citations.
“Nonetheless, over the last year, there has been significant buzz in the legal community regarding AI. Lawyers are working very hard to understand the technology and find a way it can be used in a safe manner.
“After exploring and understanding the risks and challenges AI generates, we need to establish that there is an experienced lawyer involved in the process to identify the correct output and spot any issues. We have found that this technology can be very good at creating meeting summaries and contract summaries, and helping with contract drafting, due diligence, research, finding information from past legal cases, and writing things in simpler language. Those tasks take an awful lot of time for a lawyer to complete.
“Using AI can help lawyers be more productive. AI can create a legal information database listing every case you can imagine plus legal precedents allowing the user to instantly go to that information. Lexis + is one such piece of software. It is currently only available in the US, but it is expected to be in Canada soon.
“There are other AI offerings that apply AI to contract drafting, and we are currently piloting one such software application.”
Recommendations to consider when using generative AI
- Take time to understand the technology.
- Adopt a policy about AI to educate members of the organization on how the technology works.
- Establish parameters on how members can safely experiment with the technology.
- Specify what information is not to be fed into the software.
- An approval process is necessary. Designate a knowledgeable member of your organization to evaluate the risks associated with this technology and approve the software for use.
“I anticipate that having a policy in place will be a regular line of inquiry from parties we do business with. They will want to know if their private information will be exposed to generative AI software.”
James gave an example where he attended a legal conference and heard from a representative from Open AI, the company that makes ChatGPT. He was asked if he would have any concern with his outside legal council using ChatGPT for Open AI’s legal work. He said he would be concerned with any service provider using generative AI software with their information. He would want to see the service provider’s AI policy first and understand the parameters to make sure his information would be safe.
“Not only is AI policy a good business practice, but it is likely to become a requirement to do business with certain parties.”
How is McInnes Cooper using generative AI?
“We are developing a policy around using this technology. This is such a new area and it has grown so quickly, so we are reaching out to as many parties as we can to understand what they are doing and seeing. We are following the development of many products available in other jurisdictions to answer the question of how to leverage the technology in a safe way.
“We have also launched a project using AI contract drafting software to see what it can mean for our firm internally. And we are exploring how to develop service offerings around AI to use our knowledge to answer questions from clients.
“In 2024, our firm will be pursuing client service offerings to provide advice to clients on developing their own AI policy and to help them understand the legal risks associated with the adoption of AI software.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION
For more about McInnes Cooper, visit www.mcinnescooper.com