For the legal profession itself, AI presents a dual-edged sword – both a threat and an opportunity. A 2021 report from the UK’s Law Society painted a grim picture of the potential for AI to drastically reduce human jobs within the field. Simultaneously, a study conducted by prestigious institutions like the universities of Pennsylvania, New York, and Princeton this year estimated that the legal sector faces the greatest impact from AI.
One example that has sent shockwaves through the legal community involved New York lawyer Steven Schwartz, who found himself facing disciplinary action after using the popular AI system ChatGPT to research precedents for a case. Shockingly, six out of seven cases presented by the AI were entirely fabricated. This incident has left many law firms hesitant to fully embrace AI technologies.
Ben Allgrove, the Chief Innovation Officer at international law firm Baker McKenzie, offers a different perspective. He asserts that this is not merely a technology issue but rather a matter of the professionalism and ethics of individuals like Mr. Schwartz. Allgrove suggests that AI tools, when used responsibly, can be a valuable asset.
Baker McKenzie has been monitoring AI developments since 2017 and has even assembled a team comprising lawyers, data scientists, and data engineers to test emerging AI systems. Allgrove anticipates that the majority of AI usage in his firm will involve leveraging AI-powered versions of existing legal software providers like LexisNexis and Microsoft’s 365 Solution for Legal. These platforms are increasingly equipped with generative AI capabilities that can answer legal queries, generate documents, and summarise legal issues.
Generative AI, the type of AI that can create text, images, and music based on training data, has garnered significant attention. However, premium versions of such tools are often costly, with Microsoft’s Copilot, for instance, potentially doubling technology expenditures. An alternative approach for law firms is to adapt more general AI systems like Google’s Bard, Meta’s Llama, or OpenAI’s ChatGPT for legal use.
Baker McKenzie is actively testing several of these systems, recognising that they all have the potential to make errors. Therefore, thorough testing is essential to validate their performance. However, ensuring the accuracy of AI-generated legal content is an ongoing challenge.
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Earlier this week, the Solicitors Regulation Authority at the Compliance Conference highlighted how AI will impact the profession looking at generative AI, sanctions screening technology and biometric technology. The regulatory body also highlighted the need for tougher AML fines, further pointing out that the sector needed to focus on proper AML policies.
Azeem Rashid, Director at Verify 365 stated “AI’s potential in the legal industry extends beyond mere efficiency gains—it addresses vital concerns like AML risk and compliance, enhancing the profession’s ability to uphold ethical standards and meet regulatory demands effectively”.
“In this dynamic environment, the synergy between AI and legal expertise promises to shape the future of the legal profession,” he added.