Shaping the Future of Law: Legalweek 2023 recap and analysis
During the recently completed Legalweek 2023, artificial intelligence dominated the conversation. Not everyone agreed on how legal professionals should—or could—use it. But no matter who you talked to, one thing was certain: The legal landscape will undergo a significant transformation due to the recent and rapid advancements in AI.
AI took center stage at the conference in many ways, but the most evident use case centered around generative AI tools. Whether it was ChatGPT, GPT-4, Google Bard, Bing Chat or another tool being discussed, the consensus was that generative AI is one of the most exciting technologies to come along in decades. The potential offered by this emerging technology sparked anticipation for the future of the legal industry, and the excitement about generative AI was evident from many of the product releases announced at the conference focused on incorporating AI tools into legal platforms.
One interesting example of a legal tool incorporating AI I encountered at the conference was Pre/Dicta litigation prediction software, which currently limits its predictions to motions to dismiss brought in federal court. What set Pre/Dicta apart was its unique approach. Instead of analyzing a judge’s past rulings to determine the likely outcome, this software collects, classifies, and analyzes the entire federal docket and every judge’s unique personal attributes including age, gender, resumé/background and political affiliation if known to determine the factors that will influence the judge’s decision in a given case.
The software then predicts the success or failure of a motion to dismiss before that judge based on your case number or, if the case has not yet been filed, the specific facts of your case. According to Dan Rabinowitz, CEO of Pre/Dicta, its accuracy in predicting the outcome of a motion to dismiss is about 85%. Earlier this year, Pre/Dicta acquired Gavelytics and, as a result, will soon provide predictions for motions to dismiss in state courts as well.
LexisNexis and CounselLink
LexisNexis also uses AI technology in many of its products, including Lexis+. At Legalweek, LexisNexis highlighted how AI is being used to further improve Fact and Issue Finder, their guided research tool, to improve the legal research workflow process in Lexis+. According to LexisNexis, Fact and Issue Finder reduced litigation research time by 41% for its customers. Fact and Issue Finder was released last year and includes an interactive dashboard of information to which it continues to add new data set modules, some of which utilize AI and natural language processing to provide easily accessible, relevant information.
Among the newest data sets added are documents connected to jury verdicts and settlements. This month, the ability to set up alerts will be made available, as will a permalink functionality. The permalink tool allows users to “show their work” by linking to a workflow dashboard that includes the research path that led to the end result. In May, dockets and statutes modules will be added to the Fact and Issue Finder dashboard.
Contract automation was another hot topic at the conference, and in keeping with that theme, LexisNexis shared news of recent updates to CounselLink, a LexisNexis product that provides e-billing, legal spend management and matter management for corporate legal departments. CounselLink now has contract lifecycle management features available due to its recent acquisition of Parley Pro. This means it offers a one-stop shop for corporate legal departments, including matter intake, automated contract negotiation and management, and matter management through completion.
LexCheck is another contract review tool that uses natural language processing to quickly analyze contracts without requiring human review on the backend. According to LexCheck CEO Gary Sangha, the software is trained by analyzing less than 50 contracts provided by the client, and customized code is then created for that client. The Ai software then analyzes contracts in minutes and provides redlined contract review and analysis.
Another AI-based contract review tool that does not require human review on the back end is BlackBoiler. Like LexCheck, the BlackBoiler software is trained by reviewing customer-provided contracts and other specifications, such as its most commonly-used contract clauses.
Of course, one key roadblock to adopting AI technology into law firms is a lack of trust in the results. For that reason, BlackBoiler’s newly released ContextAI feature is notable. This feature offers users the rationale behind every redline. ContextAI identifies the rule that resulted in the change, explains why it was made and provides multiple examples of how others in their organization have revised identical or similar language.
The ethics of AI
In addition to trust, concerns about legal ethics pose a challenge to AI adoption. According to the results of a recent study conducted by LexisNexis, the majority of lawyers and law students (87% of lawyers and 91% of law students) cite concerns about the ethical implications of legal professionals using AI tools.
To my knowledge, there have not yet been any ethics opinions issues regarding generative AI. However, Foster Sayers, the general counsel and chief evangelist at Pramata, a contract management software tool that uses AI in its platform, said that before using ChatGPT, client consent may be required pursuant to MRPC 1.6. Other ethical issues he suggests that lawyers should consider when using ChatGPT include confidentiality and privilege. He recommends that lawyers avoid using confidential client information when entering queries into ChatGPT since it remains unclear how data entered into ChatGPT is managed and who has access to it.
Finally, there’s the issue of technology competence. Pursuant to Comment 8 to Model Rule of Professional Conduct 1.1, lawyers have a duty to maintain technology competence. Understanding how to use emerging technologies and the risks and benefits of doing so is a key part of maintaining your ethical duty of competence. You cannot simply turn a blind eye to emerging technologies like generative AI and have an obligation to fully understand the implications—and potential—of using these technologies in your practice.
The future is now
One thing that stood out about this conference was the newfound sense of energy and excitement about technologies like generative AI. While there is still much to understand about the ethical, regulatory and practical implications of generative AI in the legal realm, this technology is improving at an exponential rate, which is a large part of why it’s creating such buzz.
Whether you choose to immediately adopt generative AI into your workflow or wait until the technology is a bit more settled, it’s imperative that you start thinking and learning about it now. The writing is on the wall: This technology has the potential to have a transformational impact on the legal tech landscape and may very well revolutionize the ways we practice law and achieve justice for our clients in the years to come.
Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York-based attorney, author and journalist, and she is senior director of subject matter expertise and external education at MyCase, a company that offers legal practice management software for small firms. She is the nationally recognized author of Cloud Computing for Lawyers and is co-author of Social Media for Lawyers: The Next Frontier, both published by the American Bar Association. She also is co-author of Criminal Law in New York, a Thomson Reuters treatise. She writes regular columns for ABAJournal.com and Above the Law; has authored hundreds of articles for other publications; and regularly speaks at conferences regarding the intersection of law and emerging technologies. Follow her on Twitter @nikiblack, or she can be reached at [email protected].
This column reflects the opinions of the author and not necessarily the views of the ABA Journal—or the American Bar Association.