British Legal Technology Forum 2023: The one with a Dragon and Chat GPT
On 10 May 2023 I attended the British Legal Technology Forum 2023. I hadn’t been at a NetLaw Media event for a good few years. The format was the one I recalled from the past: Various stages and lots of talks, large Expo hall with Legal Tech vendors and swag, a big name keynote and Richard Susskind as the Chair.
I arrived a little after 9am and already things were in full swing. Indeed, so much so that there was a large queue to get into the main Egress stage with no sign of that going down until people came out. I was advised that there was a viewing platform on the floor above. I went upstairs but the crowd at the viewing platform was such that you couldn’t see anything but could at least hear what was being said.
The irony was not lost on me that even with a pass I couldn’t get into a space sponsored by Egress. If you know you know!
I debated via Twitter the reasons for this with Ron Friedmann.
unexpectedly large turn out, bad planning, other?
Probably over allocating tickets with more showing up than anticipated.
Although I did wonder when I wangled VIP entrance to the Egress stage (I’ll come to that later) whether the hall and number of seats was just simply on the small side. I’m sure I can recall the main stage historically being larger. Maybe there are more vendors these days reducing stage capacity?
A Legal CIO: Predictions and Reflections at the British Legal Technology Forum 2023
The first talk I heard (but couldn’t see) was ‘A Legal CIO: Predictions and Reflections’ by Daniel Pollick (Chief Information Officer at DWF).
Daniel had made various predictions in 2016 which today (7 years later) he was revisiting and making some new ones for 2030.
Lawyers and Technology
Daniel had said in 2016 that it was a novel idea that lawyers wanted to use technology. This was no longer the case. I would beg to differ and suggest that this has not ben the case for a very long time and well before 2016: Hack the Past: How the Legal Profession knew nothing about technology. On Twitter, Ron Friedmann agreed with me saying: “I worked with lawyers focused on tech starting in 1989”.
AI and Legal Admin
Daniel predicted that by 2030 AI will be doing a lot of our administrative tasks. This, I think, depends on what you class as admin. AI couldn’t begin to do at the moment a lot of legal administrative tasks. I also doubt it will be able to in 2030 unless the Tesla Bot delivers by then 😉
Prepare a list of everything your paralegal does for you in a day. What percentage of that involves searching the internet for you and compiling a report on the relative search results?
Daniel was committing the third deadly sin of Legal Tech predictions (performance versus competence) and probably a few of the other six as well!
Are You the Robot Guy?
Speaking about the seven deadly sins of Legal Tech predictions, a delegate from the Netherlands came up to me at the British Legal Technology Forum 2023 and asked “are you the Robot guy?”. I confirmed I was. He recalled seeing me give my talk on the seven deadly sins of Legal Tech predictions at Lexpo 2019 in Amsterdam.
A Ringside Seat at the British Legal Technology Forum 2023
I was fortunate, whilst sitting listening to Daniel, to have Frances Armstrong come up and chat with me. We’ve known one another a long time from the early days of NetLaw Media conferences and before they were called the British Legal Technology Forum. They were originally called ‘LawTech Futures’ and were a joint venture back then between NetLaw Media and the late great Charles Christian of the Orange Rag. See:
- LawTech Futures 2012 Reviewed: The Search for the Holy Grail of Legal Technology Conferences has Begun!
- LawTech Futures 2013 Reviewed: The one with the neocortex
- LawTech Futures 2014: The one with the http regret
I mentioned to Frances Anderson the lack of space at the Egress stage, and she said she was sure there were a few reserved spaces up at the front that were not in use. She said she would see what she could do.
Before long Frances returned with a security man who led me through the (as he called it ‘secret squirrel’) backstage entrance. He said I could sit on any of the free seats in the front row and I duly did by sitting on the only seat that did not have a reserved sign on it. What I had not appreciated was that there was no sign on it because Richard Susskind had been sitting there! When he returned, he sat in the seat next to me. It was reminiscent of the day I put on Kylie Minogue’s flip flops by mistake – but that is another story.
Fireside Chat with Deloitte Legal at the British Legal Technology Forum 2023
Having not long sat down Richard Susskind got up to get back on the stage for a fireside chat with Bruce Braude (CTO, Deloitte Legal).
Bruce told us that Deloitte has half a million people around the world. Deloitte Legal draw on other teams within the organisation. There is a focus on collaboration.
Richard raised the spectre of the big four accountancy firms really competing with Big Law firms. This has been mooted by many for long enough but not actually happened as feared. Bruce responded that Deloitte Legal are ramping things up. The pace is going to change. We will see the hockey stick effect. They are scaling up. It is just a matter of time.
Richard said he sees automation, systemising, optimising and efficiency as important in legal. I could not agree more.
Richard asked Bruce if he could imagine Deloitte developing AI solutions that clients will use along with advice. Bruce replied in the affirmative. He said that at Deloitte they could build their own Legal Tech but they will also collaborate with others. For the dangers of building your own Legal Tech I would refer Bruce to Atrium: A Post-mortem.
We learned that Deloitte have an ‘AI Institute’ and that Bruce thinks we will increasingly use ChatGPT to draw up contracts. I wondered to what extent Deloitte currently use templates and/or document automation.
Disruptive Technology and AI Reforms at the British Legal Technology Forum 2023
The Egress stage closed and it was time to move to one of the smaller stages. I opted for the Litera stage and a panel discussion on Disruptive Technology and AI Reforms, over a panel discussion on another stage about the metaverse (that one must have been the comedy slot of the day!). This one on AI was also chaired by Richard Susskind.
ChatGPT is mindblowing
Alexandra Lennox (Director of Growth and Strategic Partnerships at Orbital Witness) told us that ChatGPT is mindblowing.
Lord Clement-Jones CBE (LibDem Lords Spokesperson for Science Innovation & Technology / Co-Chair of All Party Parliamentary Group on AI) said he was amazed by the influx of MPs into the All Party Parliamentary Group on AI following on from the introduction of ChatGPT. This includes the father of the House, Sir Peter Bottomley. Lord Clement-Jones said we were seeing a change in AI from wholesale to retail.
Richard Susskind attempted to start a discussion on lost employment from ChatGPT but the panel moved him quickly onto lethal autonomous weapons instead. Not quite sure the relevance of that to Legal Tech.
Online Safety Bill
Lord Clement-Jones spoke about the Online Safety Bill having a whole bunch of risk assessment built in. He thinks that a common standard is needed on assessing risk and how that is tiered.
Lord Clement-Jones informed us that we were way behind the curve in the UK on regulation. They are well ahead of us in the USA and across the Channel.
ChatGPT hallucinating (without actually calling it that) was mentioned very briefly and more in passing than anything else. I was beginning to think it was being ignored completely. Thankfully Jack Shepherd covered that topic more fully in the afternoon. I will reference his talk later in this post.
Lord Clement-Jones told us that the bit that is missing is explainability and ethics by design up front. Otherwise, he said, we have a black box forever.
(Zen and the art of) Making Your Enterprise Ready for No-Code
Next up was Ben Nicholson (Founder Sharedo) with ‘(Zen and the art of) Making Your Enterprise Ready for No-Code’.
Ben pondered what will case and matter management systems look like in 10 years’ time. To me he was describing the present day and not the future. I suppose it depends on what case and matter management system you are using and how you are using it.
On the no code debate I have never had to code myself in 30+ years of using Legal Tech. Have any lawyers had to? See: Lawyers and coding.
How to be a Tech Changemaker at Your Law Firm
Geraldine O’Reilly (Senior Marketing Manager, UK & Ireland, Clio) took us through ‘How to be a Tech Changemaker at Your Law Firm’.
Geraldine informed us that 19% of lawyers left their job within the last year. We were not to let poor Legal Tech be a reason for that. However, I know that even with good Legal Tech an unwillingness to adapt to it can be an issue. From personal experience at Inksters I recall someone who left us after two days of Legal Tech training because they could not cope with how advanced the Legal Tech provided was!
To enable buy-in and adoption, Geraldine told us that, you need to:
- Create user champions and involve them in decisions.
- Factor in the learning curve.
- Celebrate the wins and tell the stories.
- Acknowledge the misses and action.
- Hold each other accountable.
- Choose software with strong support and training options.
Back to the Future – Does the Legal Sector need the DeLorean?
Never mind a DeLorean, I should have brought my Tardis with me as I only, unfortunately, caught the tail end of ‘Back to the Future – Does the Legal Sector need the DeLorean?’. I was hoping this session, chaired by Caroline Hill, was the #bringbackboring one. However, post the event I saw that it was about going back in time to work out what should have been done differently when it comes to technology, and the enduring challenges facing legal leaders.
The few bits I caught towards the end of the session were:-
- A law firm tried to charge a client £150 for a bag of pretzels #pretzelgate. In-house fee tracking software needed to avoid being overcharged for pretzels!
- If you are a small law firm you can introduce a one stop CRM system. Big Law firms can’t. There is a series about that on this blog: Legal IT Curve
- IBM Watson didn’t take off because it wasn’t accessible. ChatGPT is taking off because it is accessible.
Unfortunately with hardly anyone but me tweeting proceedings there are no tweets out there to fill in the earlier gaps. I had tweeted earlier in the day:-
Not many delegates tweeting from #BLTF2023. Mostly just vendors. @ronfriedmann has commented on the demise of this before. Also noticing a lack of external interaction on Twitter. That used to be a thing too. #timesareachanging
Although, having said that as the day went on the external interaction to my tweets did increase although not to the levels we once used to know and love.
Why Looking After Data and Knowledge Assets Sets you up for the Future
Jack Shepherd (Legal Practice Lead, iManage) gave us probably the most grounded and practical session of the day with ‘Why Looking After Data and Knowledge Assets Sets you up for the Future’.
Jack said he was going to dampen our enthusiasm for Artificial Intelligence. We could leave if that was not for us. I was happy to stay.
For fear of being bullied for saying this Jack clarified on Twitter later that by “dampening” he meant there is more to think about than chucking AI at it.
Jack told us that LLMs are good at producing text. They are trained on huge amount of data. But they don’t know what they are producing. They hallucinate. That is a great marketing word for making mistakes. Thank goodness someone spelt that out for us at the British Legal Technology Forum!
Jack went on to stress that metadata is so important. With it you end up with a usable database. But you do need to curate and contextualise documents to achieve that.
I imagine if you dived into most law firm databases you will find nothing other than a complete and utter mess. Add ChatGPT to that mix and the mess will just get worse!
Innovation Enablers – Technology and Enterprise Architecture Trends at the British Legal Technology Forum 2023
Dale Hodgkinson (Head of Strategy and Architecture, Slaughter and May) gave us a talk on ‘Innovation Enablers – Technology and Enterprise Architecture Trends’.
Dale thinks the metaverse is still one to watch as Gartner says it is 10 years away. I think it has gone away already if it even ever properly arrived! Pay no attention to Gartner they are about to be replaced by a more insightful ChatGPT.
Too many Tools
Dale also, more realistically, said that lawyers have too many Legal Tech tools in their box. They are not really using most of them. Not even using all the features of Word. Interestingly, looking back 10 years this was a theme at LawTech Futures 2013:
It was suggested that the biggest challenge for law firms is getting lawyers to use IT. Jeffrey Brandt tweeted “Not so much use it, but use more than 10% of it”.
At that conference, 10 years ago, this was said of document automation:
Another presenter said there had been no real take up in document assembly technology (which has been around for years) due to generational and non-intuitive reasons. When I tweeted this, Jeffrey Brandt responded that it was “more base than that”. He reckoned that it comes down to a lawyer’s attitude: “my work is superior and unsurpassable – my fellow lawyers produce nothing but crap”. Jeffrey went on “It’s huge in large firms. Bigger the firm, typically the bigger the problem”. Mitchell Kowalski chipped in: “True – and it’s a huge problem because many lawyers are in the profession for an ego boost”.
I wonder if we will be hearing the same said at Legal Tech conferences in years to come about the take up of ChatGPT by lawyers?!
We also heard from Dale Hodgkinson that Windows 12 is coming. It will have improved security, AI incorporated including Chat, statement technology, and be available as a consumption model in the cloud.
Ron Friedmann commented on Twitter that it was “one thing to ad AI, another to fix the decades of poor fit and finish issues.”
Dale finished up by telling us the corporate network world is dead.
Then it was back to the Egress stage for the remainder of the afternoon. I queued up early and got a seat in the main body of the hall this time without having to seek out a VIP secret squirrel seat again.
Where Law Meets Technology: The Ostrich Strategy
Tamara Box (Managing Partner – Europe & Middle East – Reed Smith) was on stage to deliver ‘Where Law Meets Technology: The Ostrich Strategy’.
Ostriches, Tamara told us, are well equipped for fight or flight. They may be known to bury their heads but also very fast runners.
Kodak and Blockbuster
We heard the Kodak and Blockbuster stories. Stalwarts in Legal Tech presentations. But we cannot forget that neither Clearspire nor Atrium ever became the Netflix of law. Their stories would be more relevant to be told at a Legal Tech conference. I have yet to hear either name uttered at one.
Tamara exclaimed that there was an existential crisis facing the legal industry. We need to wake up. We need to totally rethink our business models. The traditional partnership model is no longer working. We cannot dangle the carrot of partnership. Most opt out of the model completely. They want work/life balance.
I tweeted in response to that:
Some re-thought their business model 10 years ago 😉 #plugplaylaw #forwardthinkinglaw
Then, of course, Tamara moved onto ChatGPT. She said ChatGPT is cataclysmic to our industry and others. Jobs are under threat. We are only starting to explore the implications. There is an argument that human wisdom and knowledge is still valued. But who will train the lawyers of the future up?
Ten years ago I reviewed Mitch Kowalski’s book ‘Avoiding Extinction: Reimagining Legal Services for the 21st Century‘.
The book is written as a story about fictional law firm Bowen, Fong and Chandri, PC. It follows General Counsel of Kowtor Industries considering outsourcing legal services to the firm, the induction of a new recruit solicitor to the firm and tells us about the make up and role of the external Board of Directors.
In my review of the book, back then, I said:-
Bowen, Fong and Chandri do not hire student or junior lawyers. They see this as a costly and unproductive exercise for law firms to undertake. They “do not hire reams of lawyers to see which ones sink or swim. That is a stupidly inefficient and ineffective way to do things and yet firms continue, like lemmings, to follow the same practice year after year. No other business runs that way”.
I expressed some doubts about that at the time but 10 years later and it is how we operate at Inksters. I can’t see Big Law following us anytime soon even with the advent of ChatGPT. Tamara needn’t worry. For the foreseeable future Big Law (including her firm) will still be training the lawyers of the future.
The Billable Hour
The next target for Tamara was the Billable hour, the death of which has been forecast for a long time. Tamara said other industries don’t use it. I tweeted:
Hmm… my plumber and electrician do!
Jason Plant tweeted a link to a blog post he wrote in 2009 (14 years ago). He feels a lot he said then still holds true: The Billable Hour isn’t Going Anywhere!
Just shortly after the British Legal Technology Forum 2023 Ron Friedmann tweeted a link to an article in the Australian Financial Review: Minters boss tips ChatGPT to end billable hour
Jordan Furlong thinks legally trained AI will decimate the billable hour: The decline of time-based law firms
I’ll stick with Jason’s take on it. My view is that document automation and other technologies that increase efficiencies in law firms have made no real odds and I don’t think ChatGPT is a silver bullet.
Back to Tamara, and she reassuringly told us that this was not Armageddon but it is a critical moment.
Richard Susskind asked Tamara when the Kodak moment would happen in law. She thinks sooner rather than later but refrained from putting a typical 5 year or other period of time upon it.
Richard then asked why do clients not push their law firms more to change? There is GC dissatisfaction (usually on cost) but no pressure to change or we will move elsewhere – or is there nowhere to move to?
Jeff Carr on Twitter gave the answer as “because they are from the same tribe”. He then went on:
There are places to move — but far too few and not really different. Most stuck in 2d wave of change (Who & Where) with neither foresight nor stomach to move to 3d wave (How) let alone 4th wave (Why). 2d wave is good, but neither enough nor sustainable.
Back to the Egress stage and Tamara had a message for legal technologists: It is your time – go for it. Law firms need to understand the art of the possible. Our business needs to be irresistible to our clients.
Lack of Law Firm Partners at the British Legal Technology Forum 2023
But with the lack of law firm partners in the room will that message get through via the legal technologists? Eleven years ago when I reviewed LawTech Futures 2012, I blogged:-
One pertinent point raised by a delegate was that the organisers should be doing more to get Law Firm Partners to attend. Charles Christian responded that this was the holy grail of legal technology conferences. If law firms just send their IT people to these conferences will they really be getting the messages that the conferences convey. Will they be able to change if they don’t know what they need to change. It came across in the conference that lawyers don’t let their IT people speak to their clients. Will lawyers know that this should change if they don’t attend conferences to hear this but instead simply send their IT people to them?
Another example of how 11 years later some things haven’t changed any.
Now it was keynote time from a big name with no real knowledge about Legal Tech. But sometimes an outsider’s views can bring new perspectives.
Enter the Dragon to the British Legal Technology Forum 2023
Steven Bartlett is a speaker, investor, author, content creator and the host of Europe’s No.1 podcast, ‘The Diary of a CEO’. Steven joined Dragons’ Den from Series 19 in January 2022, as the youngest ever Dragon in the Show’s history.
Richard Susskind welcomed him to the stage for a fireside chat. Following chat show tradition the first thing to do was to plug Steven’s book ‘Happy Sexy Millionaire’ which was a Sunday Times best seller published in 2021.
Steven didn’t want to write a f****** book. But he did. And those the book is aimed at don’t want to buy a f****** book. But they clearly do with his one.
Richard says he thinks this every time he writes another book. On each seat, when we came into the hall for the final sessions, was a complimentary copy of the third edition of Richard’s book ‘Tomorrow’s Lawyers’. I reviewed the first edition on here 10 years ago.
Steven Bartlett also took the opportunity to plug his latest book (due out 31 August 2023): ‘The Diary of a CEO: The 33 Laws of Business and Life‘
We then moved on from book plugging.
Are you driven or are you being dragged? Steven was being dragged in the beginning.
Steven told us that a sense of progress, forward motion is most important to employees. A sense of autonomy is also important. I tweeted:
Sounds like a sales talk for plugplaylaw 😉
He mentioned Ray Kurzweil’s predictions on the rate of change. Kurzweil wrote at the turn of this century on ‘The Law of Accelerating Returns‘:
An analysis of the history of technology shows that technological change is exponential, contrary to the common-sense ‘intuitive linear’ view. So we won’t experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century—it will be more like 20,000 years of progress (at today’s rate). The ‘returns,’ such as chip speed and cost-effectiveness, also increase exponentially. There’s even exponential growth in the rate of exponential growth. Within a few decades, machine intelligence will surpass human intelligence, leading to the Singularity—technological change so rapid and profound it represents a rupture in the fabric of human history. The implications include the merger of biological and nonbiological intelligence, immortal software-based humans, and ultra-high levels of intelligence that expand outward in the universe at the speed of light.
Ray Kurzweil was the keynote speaker at LawTech Futures 2013 where he predicted that by 2033 we could have computerised devices that are the size of blood cells embedded into our brains. These will communicate wirelessly with the Internet enabling our brains to directly tap into AI in the cloud. Now just 10 years to go for that to happen then! It was reported just the other week that US lawmakers are to ask regulators to investigate whether the make-up of a panel overseeing animal testing at Elon Musk’s brain-chip startup Neuralink contributed to botched and rushed experiments.
Oh, and by the way, in 2002 Ray Kurzweil made a similar prediction. He claimed then that by 2010 computers would disappear. Images would be written directly to our retinas, and we would be constantly logged on to the Internet through high bandwidth, wireless connections. Tiny electronics would be embedded in our clothing and in the environment, he said.
So maybe the rate of change is not quite so fast as Kurzweil or Bartlett would have us think.
We need to be careful not to commit the first deadly sin of Legal Tech predictions (overestimating and underestimating), the fifth deadly sin (exponentials) and the seventh deadly sin (speed of deployment).
Tendency to Lean Out rather than In
Steven thinks we are at the start of new exponential curve: AI. It will disrupt this industry. We will experience more change than ever before. Cognitive dissonance will prevent you from leaning in. We justify it away because it causes us discomfort. We will lean out. Steven loves change. His people lean in. Others will be taken away with the bulldozer.
Richard Susskind commented that risk aversion and leaning out is very pertinent to law firms.
Steven said that the biggest risk in business is not failing but taking 9 months to fail. Move quickly not slowly to succeed. Do this in small groups and by empowering your people. Perfect decisions only exist in hindsight.
Jack Shepherd after the event tweeted:
One thing that was said yesterday at #BLTF: “if you aren’t running towards gen AI now it will be too late in a couple of years”. This article is interesting to read in that light: Did My Prompt Break The Law? Potential Copyright and Breach of Contract Issues with Generative AI
Jack went onto tweet:
I’m also not sure I agree with the “it will be too late” thing. Especially in legal where disruption isn’t something that happens within such a short space of time.
Agreed – e.g. is it too late for those that haven’t adopted document automation yet to adopt it? Are they going to jump to using ChatGPT and skip the document automation bit?
Exactly. Is the idea that you’ll already be disrupted if you wait too late? We should know better than to scaremonger too much on this in the legal industry – it will take more than a piece of technology to do that.
Back to the Egress stage at the British Legal Technology Forum 2023.
ChatGPT replacing Lawyers?
Steven Bartlett said ChatGPT has saved the brother of someone he knows £5,000 in legal fees to resolve a dispute. It sounded like possibly only one letter was involved, created by ChatGPT. This would suggest it was a longer letter than any lawyer could possibly write or that the lawyer ChatGPT is being compared to has one huge billable hour charge out rate. Or perhaps a case of Chinese whispers turning a story into magic (the second deadly sin of Legal Tech predictions). Or, as Alex G Smith put it on Twitter:
Ah, someone’s ex-husband’s sister’s cousin who knows someone who was once on the show Ally McBeal
Comparing ChatGPT to the early Internet
Steven asked us to think of the early Internet and the first PC. Think how they have evolved. ChatGPT will be the same. It will change our lives in many great ways but will cause disruption. Interestingly, as reported by Wired, Sam Altman (CEO of OpenAI, the creators of ChatGPT) has said that:
I think we’re at the end of the era where it’s going to be these, like, giant, giant models. We’ll make them better in other ways.
As Wired then reported:
Altman’s statement suggests that GPT-4 could be the last major advance to emerge from OpenAI’s strategy of making the models bigger and feeding them more data. He did not say what kind of research strategies or techniques might take its place. In the paper describing GPT-4, OpenAI says its estimates suggest diminishing returns on scaling up model size. Altman said there are also physical limits to how many data centers the company can build and how quickly it can build them.
They went onto state:
At MIT last week, Altman confirmed that his company is not currently developing GPT-5. “An earlier version of the letter claimed OpenAI is training GPT-5 right now,” he said. “We are not, and won’t for some time.”
A Moratorium on AI Development
Richard Susskind discussed the call by Elon Musk and others for a moratorium on AI development amid fears of a threat to humanity. Steven Bartlett thinks this has come too late.
Moving onto a different topic, Richard Susskind quizzed Steven Bartlett about being a Dragon and an investor in businesses.
Investing in new businesses is all about people
Steven told us that investing in new businesses is all about people. A good idea with the wrong person might not work out. Resilience when things go wrong is important. You need to be able to pivot and adapt.
When disruption happened at Facebook due to mobile Mark Zuckerberg wouldn’t discuss anything unless it was mobile.
My thought was that may have been a good idea for mobile phone disruption at the time but maybe not such a good idea with the metaverse! But then the metaverse didn’t disrupt Facebook. Instead Mark Zuckerberg decided to disrupt Facebook with the metaverse.
What about lawyers and disruption? Lawyers are risk averse in their legal work but don’t have to be risk averse in how they deliver work to their clients. Lawyers can be selling legal advice to those using AI. That is where I always say lawyers will really gain from all of this.
Steven Bartlett said you could create a WhatsApp lawyer or a pocket lawyer easily. He would hope it will provide good advice. My thought was I hope it doesn’t hallucinate! Also I think Steven was committing some of those deadly sins of Legal Tech predictions again: Certainly Sin No. 2 – Imagining Magic; and Sin No. 3 – Performance versus Competence. If it was so easy to create a pocket lawyer we would already have one. And we all know what happened to DoNotPay:
When the phenomenon that is ChatGPT was released at the end of November 2022, DoNotPay was one of the first companies to jump on board in a big way.
Fast-forward two months later, and the company was discontinuing its legal products after a poorly thought-out stunt to have a robot lawyer appear in traffic court and a bold $1M offer to have its chatbot handle a SCOTUS case, all of which caused a stir, and not in a good way.
While DoNotPay’s founder Joshua Browder dismissed the backlash against his plans as legal industry protectionism, even claiming the whole incident was “a bit of a nothingburger,” others in the legal industry were left with a bad taste in their mouths regarding the real harm DoNotPay’s actions might have caused.
DoNotPay is also facing a lawsuit from a prominent plaintiffs’ law firm that says the company is practicing law without a license.
Steven Bartlett then told us that small changes can make a big difference. You get a sense of progress from small wins. Small easy things to do are also the easy things not to do. Sweat the small stuff. This is exactly what I told a similar audience back in 2014 at Reinvent Law London: Improving.
Generative AI was the Theme of the British Legal Technology Forum 2023
That then ended the British Legal Technology Forum 2023 with Richard Susskind saying in his closing remarks that the theme of today had been Generative AI. It certainly had been.
It also seems to have been the theme in Las Vegas at CLOC this past week. But, refreshingly, ignored completely in Edinburgh this week at the LawtechUK Launch Event.
Lack of Use Cases at the British Legal Technology Forum 2023?
At both the British Legal Technology Forum 2023 and CLOC Las Vegas, criticism has been made, after the events, of the lack of use cases.
On Twitter Jack Shepherd said of the British Legal Technology Forum 2023:
So much chat about AI at #BLTF but very little about (1) outcomes it could drive, or (2) the detailed workflows and use cases (and why AI might be better than current use cases). Am I going mad or are these also quite important? Or are we still in fact-finding mode? Both?
Exactly what I said to several delegates I spoke to when discussing the sessions with them. We are both sane.
We had the same problem at LegalTech conferences 5 years ago. As Legal Futurists tell us these things seem to come in 5 year cycles – However, in reality with no real change!
From 5 years ago: “Yet again we didn’t have real life, properly explained, use cases of AI in practice in law firms. Use case examples are needed that delegates can assimilate and decide from whether or not such use would be beneficial to them and their law firms.”
This is what’s going on. I just think people are really excited about the tech and want to find out more. It’s a shame this exercise often supplants the important business analysis that should precede it.
I pointed out:
We has the same with Blockchain.
And the metaverse.
But apparently ChatGPT is different.
It’s different because the output it produces goes beyond what was possible before. It is amazing with words. No question. But it still needs detailed use cases in legal.
But therefore not different from my other two examples both of which also required detailed use cases in legal. Neither of which were ever forthcoming!
As Alex Hamilton put it in his inimitable style:
We always have been, and always will be, in parallel bullshit mode and doing mode.
You just have to choose your track.
What we need at next year’s British Legal Technology Forum
By next year we will surely have all the use cases we need to show the benefits or otherwise of ChatGPT to lawyers.
So at the British Legal Technology Forum 2024 bring in some lawyers from Allen & Overy to tell us what their experiences of using Harvey has really been like.
Analyse whether ChatGPT can really pass a bar exam.
Let us hear about LLM maximalism.
Also give us some talks on potential drawbacks: the privacy issues, copyright issues, misinformation and hallucinations.
Rodney Brooks should Keynote at the British Legal Technology Forum 2024
Have Rodney Brooks as the keynote speaker. Brooks is the godfather of the 7 deadly sins of AI predictions that I rode on the coattails of in forming the 7 deadly sins of Legal Tech predictions.
In March 2023 Rodney Brooks made his views on ChatGPT known:
Generative Pre-trained Transformer models (GPTs) are now all the rage and have inspired op-eds being written by everyone from Henry Kissinger (WSJ) to Noam Chomsky (NYTimes) in just the last month. That sure is some hype level.
Way back in the early history of GPTs, January 1st this year, I wrote briefly about them and said:
“Calm down people. We neither have super powerful AI around the corner, nor the end of the world caused by AI about to come down upon us.”
I stick with that advice, but in this post I want to say why, and talk about where these systems will have impact. In short, there will be valuable tools produced, and at the same time lots of damaging misuse.
The entire article (like anything Brooks writes) is well worth a read. He ends it by making some specific predictions:
Here I make some predictions for things that will happen with GPT types of systems, and sometimes coupled with stable diffusion image generation. These predictions cover the time between now and 2030. Some of them are about direct uses of GPTs and some are about the second and third order effects they will drive.
- After years of Wikipedia being derided as not a referable authority, and not being allowed to be used as a source in serious work, it will become the standard rock solid authority on just about everything. This is because it has built a human powered approach to verifying factual knowledge in a world of high frequency human generated noise.
- Any GPT-based application that can be relied upon will have to be super-boxed in, and so the power of its “creativity” will be severely limited.
- GPT-based applications that are used for creativity will continue to have horrible edge cases that sometimes rear their ugly heads when least expected, and furthermore, the things that they create will often arguably be stealing the artistic output of unacknowledged humans.
- There will be no viable robotics applications that harness the serious power of GPTs in any meaningful way.
- It is going to be easier to build from scratch software stacks that look a lot like existing software stacks.
- There will be much confusion about whether code infringes on copyright, and so there will be a growth in companies that are used to certify that no unlicensed code appears in software builds.
- There will be surprising things built with GPTs, both good and bad, that no-one has yet talked about, or even conceived.
- There will be incredible amounts of misinformation deliberately created in campaigns for all sorts of arenas from political to criminal, and reliance on expertise will become more discredited, since the noise will drown out any signal at all.
- There will be new categories of pornography.
I would put my money on these predictions by Rodney Brooks rather than any of the wilder ones we heard at the British Legal Technology Forum 2023.
As Brooks has put it himself:
I write these posts with arguments, references, and reason, to educate people who see nothing but hype and fall for it every time.
Reactions on Social Media to British Legal Technology Forum 2023: The one with a Dragon and Chat GPT
On LinkedIn the following comments have been made:-
Philippos Aristotelous (Business Strategist | Coach | Consultant):
Like a genie, ChatGPT is best utilized when clearly thought and succinctly formulated prompts (ie “wishes”) are offered.
I understand that Legal Prompt Engineering is a highly skilled and sought after role commanding salaries beyond that of what a humble lawyer could ever dream of 😉
Absolutely. That could be a dream job of the future!
The more important job (but no one seems to be speaking about that yet) is the Legal Hallucinatory Detectorist 😉 #TomorrowsLawyers
Anthony Vigneron (Delivering results for our Clients – Legal Technology Solutions Director #LegalTech):
Thank you for your report Brian. Saved me much time. 😉
As you said on Twitter better than ChatGPT! It could not begin to do a review of a live conference never mind pulling in the snark from the Twitter audience 😉
Graeme Johnston (Software to map work – before that a lawyer):
I gave in to temptation and prompted an LLM summary of your summary Brian – what do you think? 😅
It avoids any mention of ChatGPT, which was the main thrust of my review 😭
At least it can’t be accused of amour propre when distinguishing noise from signal!
Graeme Johnston (Software to map work – before that a lawyer):
Amazing summary of the event, Brian. Thank you for sharing it.
I went to it last year – the main big stage event was focused on the metaverse, with all sorts of optimistic predictions. And here we are today!
On LLM use cases in law, we’ve been experimenting with summarisation and question-answering about specific documents, for the purpose of understanding process and reporting on points of interest.
Some quite promising elements – there can be value in generating stuff from a mass of data for these use cases, even though it needs verification and editing, which can be provided by a mixture of other systems and by expert humans.
Just to give an idea, see this summary of the main stages in the Lynch extradition case process at https://caselaw.nationalarchives.gov.uk/ewhc/admin/2023/876
Not earth-shattering but useful. I can also see it enhancing ediscovery and contract tools, as some have started to do already.
That said, it certainly does need to be boxed in with some other well thought-through elements.
In summary, another tool in the toolset is my initial view. Probably more important than the metaverse.
The metaverse was relegated to just one slot this year and nowhere near the main stage. I didn’t attend that particular talk but suggest in my blog post that it must have been the comedy slot of the day!
I can see your use case being a potentially useful one.
I agree with the need for it to be boxed in and, as Jack Shepherd highlighted at the Conference, you do perhaps need to curate and contextualise documents and generally get your data in order before letting ChatGPT loose on it.
Interestingly, after publishing my blog post today, I came across chat on Twitter about ChatGPT4 having been lobotomized: https://twitter.com/Lauramaywendel/status/1659921077156339713. There appears to be some thought that it has been replaced with a distilled smaller model to save costs and/or how reinforcement learning can actually cause brain damage on the model: https://twitter.com/holdehnj/status/1660315495982329859?s=20
There appears to be a lot to be wary about!
Yes on curation. Jack’s company has been supportive of, and contributed to, the noslegal taxonomy project with that sort of need in mind.
On your last paragraph, it’s quite easy to break things. As an example – after some Q&A on English civil procedure recently (full slide deck in post at link), the Mosaic model I was playing with went rather off the rails. I omitted the gibberish from the deck, but an example is in the image. Still, that sort of thing can be worked around.
Looks similar to my pre-ChatGPT interactions with Chatbots! https://thetimeblawg.com/chatbots/
John McCarthy (Law Firm Profit Sherpa):
AI is incredible and I think it will keep inprovng.
It’s still early days so it will be interesting to see what it can do in a few years ….
Incredible as it may currently appear we do need to concentrate on the actual use cases for lawyers. I’m not sure that it is at the moment the panacea that some are making it out to be. Probably dedicated tools will be developed for lawyers that use the underlying technology applied to specific data sets. But I’m not so sure what benefit simply using ChatGPT as it stands directly will assist most lawyers in any way on a day to day basis to do the work that they actually have to do.
It’s not perfect, and it may never be.
But I think it (AI technology, not necessarily Chat GPT in its current form) is certainly something that can be “developed” to assist and support not replace many professions.
As Dave Harland points out if you’re using AI, you’re falling behind 😉 https://www.linkedin.com/posts/daveharland_10-non-ai-tools-activity-7066346555770839040-ACyX?utm_source=share&utm_medium=member_android
I read a lot of Dave’s stuff, very funny & talented guy.
In my opinion, AI is here to stay, and it’s going to keep getting better.
Like computers, emails and automation, etc it will not replace humans but it is a resource we can use.
It’s how we use it that counts.
I don’t disagree. We just need to be careful to not get too excited too soon and always keep the seven deadly sins of AI predictions in mind when considering anything written or said on the topic.
Charles Uniman (Legal Tech Startup Evangelist and Founder & Host of the Legal Tech StartUp Focus community):
Don’t be put off by its length because it’s so worthwhile. I’m speaking of Brian Inkster’s reflections on the British Legal Technology Forum 2023.