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Don’t write off AI and language models, says tech expert

Legal professionals should continue to build their tech muscles and further experiment with AI tools, which are touted to grow and improve in the near future.

user iconMalavika Santhebennur 21 November 2023 Big Law
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Ahead of the Women in Law Forum 2023, McLay Legal Consulting principal consultant Fiona McLay has urged lawyers not to dismiss artificial intelligence (AI) tools and language models like ChatGPT based on their current limitations.

“Remember that we’re only seeing the first iteration of these tools, and we’re still working out what we can do,” she told Lawyers Weekly.

“We’re not there yet. Don’t write it off by the limits now. Some of those limitations around fact-checking are already being worked on.”


As such, now is the time for lawyers to test the potential of generative AI tools and increase their understanding of how transformative they could be in the future, Ms McClay said.

“Start building your muscles around how to make use of these tools so that when they become bigger and better, you can take advantage of them,” she said.

“If you can upskill yourself using the free or paid version, you can improve their effectiveness and reliability.”

At the forum, Ms McClay and a panel of speakers will discuss how in-house legal departments could take stock of their tech stack and use it to streamline efficiencies and how to leverage AI.

Technology is underutilised in law firms, legal departments and many businesses across other professions due to issues with process and personnel, Ms McClay mused.

Remedying this not only requires increased education but also consensus on the processes employers and employees will implement.

“To make the best use of technological tools, you need to agree to do things in a standardised way,” Ms McClay said.

“Lawyers haven’t always approached work this way. We’ve often had people working in idiosyncratic ways.”

Establishing house rules could enable lawyers to use the tools currently available to them more effectively and determine how they will invest in new tools, Ms McClay suggested.

She recently suggested that some lawyers struggle with “tech phobia” due to a lack of practice using software platforms, generative AI, and other tools.

“Lawyers are very good at communicating effectively and interacting and building relationships with humans. Technological tools have not been very good at that up until now. Generative AI is a whole new ballgame in that field,” Ms McClay said.

Lawyers could streamline efficiencies across a number of tasks by using technological tools, Ms McClay said.

This includes summarising long documents, creating first drafts that synthesise complex concepts, tailoring how information is written and communicated to different audiences, and creating templates for standard business processes, such as building a business case or a change management plan.

“Again, you have to fact-check what it produces,” she flagged.

“But it’s a useful starting point in producing information that’s easier to understand and less overwhelming than long documents or lots of online information.”

Technology could also be used to optimise the delivery process of projects and provide clients with accurate estimates of how much their case is going to cost based on past experiences, Ms McClay said.

Lawyers could use collaborative trackers to monitor multiple cases simultaneously without losing track.

Alongside this, she pushed lawyers to use automated tools to send regular case updates to their clients.

Automating the “busy work” could also help lawyers run a more efficient practice or team, Ms McClay said.

“Find previous content that you can reuse for a similar task,” she said.

“Automate anything that’s repetitive or requires you to synthesise a longer document and explain it in simple terms.”

What cannot be automated, however, is where innovative lawyers use specialised industry knowledge to change how they practise law.

“There are currently no tools available that can conduct analysis and apply reasoning. This is where lawyers can harness their legal skills,” Ms McClay concluded.

To hear more from Fiona McClay about how lawyers could use generative AI and other tools, come along to the Women in Law Forum 2023.

It will be held on Thursday, 23 November, at Crown Melbourne.

Click here to buy tickets and don’t miss out!

For more information, including agenda and speakers, click here.