The Future of Life Institute issued a controversial open letter on March 22, requesting a pause in giant AI experiments. The letter requests research on large language model generative AI to be paused for six months and was signed by over a thousand AI leaders and influencers in the first 48 hours. The Future of Life Institute’s mission is to steer transformative technology toward benefiting life and away from extreme large-scale risks. In other words, they are concerned about AI creating huge risks to humanity.
A few days following the open letter, Italy decided to ban ChatGPT for General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) privacy reasons, which is a little more down to earth and concrete.
Decisions like these are appealing and make sense at one level. For example, OpenAI is adding plug-ins which make ChatGPT4 more powerful (and potentially dangerous) by enabling it to browse the Web or access application programming interfaces (APIs) to perform tasks for users. Naturally, this can cause some concern and re-evaluation of the technology.
One positive side of ChatGPT4’s plug-ins will be the ability to search the Internet and find an authoritative refence to a law, regulation, or court case, something that is needed to make more legal applications viable with ChatGPT.
On the other hand, the dangerous side is that nefarious actors could also direct ChatGPT to open a bank account and come up with techniques to find vulnerable people, hack their bank accounts, and transfer money into the ChatGPT-created bank account. Groups like Future of Life Institute are thinking about a world where humanity could lose control of AI in ways that could negatively impact them.
The bigger decisions on whether to pause AI research are really beyond the control of the typical attorney or organization. Bad actors aren’t going to pause their activity, and neither will certain nation-states. Industries and businesses compete — would Google, Apple, Amazon, or Meta welcome a temporary pause that might even the playing field? You bet.
Goldman Sachs released a report that asserts AI could automate 44% of legal tasks and could impact 300 million jobs worldwide. (Note: Those are big numbers that would also drive tremendous economic growth and would also create a significant number of jobs.)
The bottom line is, there are things we can’t control and things we can control.
Legal Professionals Need To Remain Focused And Prepare To Leverage AI
The proverbial “AI Genie” is now out of the bottle, and it’s not going back. Huge forces are at play and legal professionals across firms and law departments need to remain focused and work on what they can control.
Here are three things that professionals in law firms and law departments can focus upon that are within their power.
Not All AI Is Generative
ChatGPT is all the rage with its massive scale and large language model approach to generating text and answers to questions. However, there are other types of AI to be aware of. For example, machine learning models can be applied to sets of data like a company’s contracts, or a law firm’s knowledge management system. There are systems that use a supervised learning model with human oversight to direct how AI is trained, and applications exist that can extract data such as important contract terms. Those extractions can be reviewed by humans to ensure accuracy as needed.
At this juncture, most legal vendors have AI embedded in their solutions. For instance, as an AI-powered solution, Legisway streamlines a wide range of workflows for corporate law departments and facilitates collaboration between the user and their business. Ask your vendors for a review of their AI solutions.
Continue Researching Use Cases For AI And Experimenting
Forget the obstacles with AI for a moment and consider the following: create teams; come up with ideas where AI, including generative AI solutions, could benefit your organization; look for ideas that can help boost productivity by reducing the time or effort to complete a task; consider ideas that can improve work product or outcomes; and don’t be afraid to consider “moonshots” that could be game changers or enable something that could have been considered inconceivable.
AI is progressing at an incredibly fast rate. There are new information and revelations every day. The best thing attorneys can do is find opportunities, experiment, and be prepared.
Who knows what the next killer app will be or what tasks will become standard operating procedure with AI in the near future?
Develop Policies For AI
Firms already have extensive information and governance rules around conflicts of interest, how long data is stored, when it is retained, when it must be destroyed, and who can access information.
While associates conduct research and develop draft documents, partners review documents and complete work product. It is a natural extension for legal professionals to adapt policies and procedures to consider the use of AI in the creation of draft work products.
It’s critical that firms and law departments consider what review is necessary to adapt policies around AI, given ChatGPT can hallucinate and come across as very confident when it makes up fictitious answers. I’m sure there are some wild stories about “the naïve mistake” a well-meaning associate made in the past when pulling an all-nighter for an important case that almost made it into a filing.
Firms and law departments are used to reviewing draft documents, they just need to be able to review with an eye toward the mistakes that AI can make.
Stay Prepared For The Inevitable Changes To Come
ChatGPT and generative AI are game changers. AI may go down in history as a technological advancement comparable to Gutenberg’s printing press, manned flight, or the Internet. There are forces at work beyond the control of any individual, organization, or government for that matter.
Legal professionals, law firms of all sizes, and law departments need to focus on what they can control and stay focused to prepare for the inevitable. Whether it’s six months or six years, change is coming. Let’s be prepared as an industry to embrace the change.
Ken Crutchfield is Vice President and General Manager of Legal Markets at Wolters Kluwer Legal & Regulatory U.S., a leading provider of information, business intelligence, regulatory and legal workflow solutions. Ken has more than three decades of experience as a leader in information and software solutions across industries. He can be reached at [email protected].