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  • Melanie Farquharson

The Future Lawyer Week conference and Chat GPT bingo

I was lucky enough to attend parts of the Future Lawyer Week 6.0 conference in London this week (London | Future Lawyer Week UK | England ( It was an interesting event, touching on areas that are close to my heart.

ChatGPT and generative AI were mentioned in almost every session I attended and if I’d had a ChatGPT bingo card, I’d have had a full house. Things are moving very fast in the area of large language models. The OpenAI online ChatGPT was much discussed, including mention of how it ‘hallucinates’ (makes things up) and ‘hallucitates’ (invents cases and articles including fictional – but credible looking – citations). It was amusingly described as being like a cocky associate lawyer ‘mansplaining’. The difference is that you can’t interrogate it in the same way about how it reached its conclusions.

Using the public version to assist legal work carries risks as your questions (prompts) feed back into the model and could become public. However, it was recognised that it could be useful for getting a quick overview of something where the accuracy of the precise detail doesn’t matter too much (in much the same way as Google and Wikipedia can be useful, but at least with those you can generally see the sources). It’s good at summarising things and can provide text in your chosen style, so if you already know the area in detail, but want a quick summary, it could provide something which you could check through for accuracy. In an area you don’t know in detail you would have to verify every sentence if you wanted to use its output in anger when giving legal advice.

I was asked to provide commentary as part of a panel after a presentation by Herman Sjøberg of Ayfie, who showed how they are using large language model technology to enable a user to interrogate a specific document or set of documents. Being able to use this within an organisation’s firewall, and to be able to check the sources the model is using will increase the potential of the technology for lawyers enormously. A number of suppliers are working on this and I think we will see some significant new possibilities soon.

The conference as a whole was full of tips for bringing about change in legal functions and law firms. Making sure that you bring a diversity of views into the thinking behind innovation was stressed, as was resisting the temptation to jump too quickly to the solution, before having defined the problem properly. A good illustration of this was provided in a session about contract lifecycle management (CLM), an area where there are multiple tools on the market, each with strengths and weaknesses in terms of the part of the lifecycle they support (from first draft, through negotiation, storage, analysis and alerting you to deadlines). Unless you are clear what problem you are trying to solve in your organisation you may end up with a product which is better in areas that aren’t really a problem, but doesn’t hit the mark where it matters for you.

The importance of the user experience was acknowledged strongly. User adoption of systems is something of a hobby horse of mine. There is no point in implementing systems with extensive functionality if you can’t get users to adopt them. But as we know, it is hard to make things simple. I was particularly fascinated by a session on redesigning legal documents to make them more user-friendly. The opaqueness and impenetrability of legal documents is something that I find depressing, but the session showcased a project using Majoto, which demonstrated that you can make consumer T&Cs more accessible and easier to navigate and understand if you try hard enough. OneNDA’s work on simplifying a non-disclosure agreement to a page or so is a good example of the art of the possible here.

Finally, I was struck by the number of examples of collaboration across organisations that were mentioned at the event, including collaborative pro bono initiatives involving LawFairy, and the cross-organisation Legal Project Management Network. In what sometimes feels like a cutthroat world, there is much that can be achieved by working together, to the benefit of ourselves and others.

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