The Future Is Now: The rise of AI-powered legal assistants
Unless you’re hiding under a rock, you’ve undoubtedly heard about generative AI tools like ChatGPT. The potential efficiency gains these tools offer legal professionals are mind-boggling—and possibly career-changing. If predictions are correct, many aspects of legal work will be impacted by generative AI, and some functions may even be replaced in the years to come.
Just as generative AI technology has grown at an exponential rate since the start of the year, so too has news coverage of companies racing to market with new legal generative AI products. Last month, a notable announcement came from Thomson Reuters: It had entered into an agreement to acquire Casetext, a legal research software company, for the hefty price of $650 million in cash. The driver behind the acquisition was Casetext’s public release in March of CoCounsel, a cutting-edge legal assistant chatbot that assists with reviewing and summarizing documents, deposition preparation, database search, legal research memos and contract analysis.
The Casetext acquisition follows the May announcement from LexisNexis regarding the release of the beta version of Lexis+ AI, a generative AI tool that includes conversational search, document summarization and intelligent legal drafting capabilities.
The speed with which the largest legal tech companies are entering the generative AI space strongly indicates that AI will have significant ramifications on the practice of law moving forward.
Of course, there have been many other legal AI product announcements and releases in recent months, some of which I’ve already discussed in earlier articles, including generative AI contract analytics tools.
Another type of generative AI category, AI legal assistant tools, aren’t limited to a specific type of law practice or task and can be used by most lawyers across all workflows. Generative AI legal assistants are often powered by GPT-4 or a combination of generative AI chatbot technologies including Google’s Bard or Microsoft’s Bing. Others rely on proprietary AI technology. These tools typically include the ability to analyze and review documents, provide summaries of documents or cases, answer general questions, draft templates and forms, extract contract data and more by responding to simple queries from the user.
Since GPT-4 was rolled out in March, there have been many products released in this category, including LexisNexis and Thomson Reuters’ generative AI tools discussed above. Below, you’ll learn about several other solutions currently available. Keep in mind that this overview is not exhaustive, and the number of products in this category will undoubtedly increase in the coming months.
Before investing in this technology, it is imperative to understand that in their present form, generative AI tools can provide responses that include inaccuracies and falsehoods. For that reason, it is essential to have foundational knowledge about all topics and issues that are the subject of your queries and to carefully review all responses from the chatbot to identify any errors in the output. However, as generative AI technology advances over time, the overall quality of results will exponentially improve and less oversight will be required.
Also, it is important to remember that using his type of technology involves entrusting sensitive client information to an external party. As a legal professional, you have an ethical responsibility to thoroughly understand how the technology provider will process, host and store your data. This entails understanding the company’s data management processes, whether it will use the input to improve future responses, the location of its servers, who has access to the data and the backup procedures in place, among other considerations.
With that in mind, here are some of the product releases in this category. As indicated in the descriptions below, many of these products are still in beta but will be available soon. Pricing is not publicly available for any of the products listed below unless otherwise listed:
- Termi: A stand-alone GPT-3.5-powered conversational chatbot from Helm360 that integrates with several legal software products and provides answers to a variety of questions relating to cases, legal issues and more. It is available now, but pricing is not available on the website.
- Copilot: Powered by CPT-3.5, this stand-alone chatbot answers queries about documents, drafts emails and other communications, translates between languages and more. It will be publicly available later this year. If you join the early access beta program, it will cost you $5 monthly, and once the beta program ends, you will be offered a 50% discount off the annual plan, a saving of $300. Midpage.ai: This legal assistant helps lawyers with legal research and document drafting and integrates with well-known legal research providers to enable case summaries. It isn’t available yet, but you can join the waitlist.
- Visalaw.ai: Designed for immigration lawyers, this tool enables legal research, document summarization, language translation and more. It hasn’t been released but a waitlist is available.
- Dodan.ai: This GPT-powered tool assists with deposition and document summaries, document drafting and document search. You can sign up now and there’s a free trial, but pricing is not available on the website.
The emergence of so many AI-based legal assistant tools in such a short time frame signifies a significant departure from business as usual in our profession. The rapid development of generative AI technology will likely redefine legal workflows at an unprecedented pace, and within a few years, the practice of law may look very different than it does today.
With this irreversible trend toward the integration of AI into legal software, it’s essential to prepare for the changes, enhance relevant skills and embrace change. Lawyers who stay informed, understand the advantages of AI and are equipped to address its ethical and practical implications will be able to rapidly streamline their law firms, increase efficiencies and gain a competitive edge. For that reason alone, there’s no better time than now to take steps to ensure you are one of those future-facing lawyers.
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 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.