Will AI prepare your next will? How AI could rapidly alter the legal sector

16th April 2024

Image of an AI chip

Artificial Intelligence (“AI”) has already begun to alter the legal industry. Those of us with colleagues who are recent graduates will have seen the shocking ease with which some will rely on AI to assist them in their work. While it would be easy to chastise colleagues who do this, the more uncomfortable truth is that those who are learning how to use AI will be the ones to best take advantage of the productivity boost AI can provide; none of us have colleagues who still use typewriters.

Most reading this article will be at least passingly familiar with ChatGPT, a general AI which relies on data “scraped” from the internet. ChatGPT can give you recipes, holiday suggestions, and even draft you a will – though not necessarily a good one. As AI relies on generating “new” documents based on existing information found online, it cannot anticipate changes in law and can only rely on the data available to it. ChatGPT 3.5, the version that is free for users, relies on information nearly three years out of date so it is almost inevitable that this will lead to inaccurate legal drafting.

The legal profession is beginning to implement its own AI solutions. LexisNexis, a trusted source of legal precedent for nearly all lawyers, has begun to implement an AI product, Lexis+ AI, for its US users. Lexis+ AI can find answers, summarise law and documents, and even generate correspondence and documents based on your prompts. While similar to ChatGPT, Lexis+ AI relies on its own up-to-date information when generating legal documents which should allow it to generate an accurate legal document following a prompt from its user.

AI is a revolutionary tool and the starting gun’s echo is still reverberating. Further productivity gains can be secured through other AI products. Microsoft has recently launched Copilot – its own AI software that links into the Office365 suite of apps such as Word and Excel. Due to wide use of Microsoft Office in law firms, it is likely that Copilot will be the first piece of AI software widely used by the legal industry. Copilot’s great advantage is to rely on data within a firm’s system therefore making all the history of letters, advice, documents and potentially client data you possess “usable” for AI.

An example: Mr John Smith completes a will questionnaire so that a solicitor can draft the document. The solicitor asks Copilot to “read” this document and prepare a draft will relying on the information in the questionnaire. The solicitor then asks Copilot to read the will and prepare an explanatory document. This information relies on a “typical” application of generative AI as it is not relying on information outside of its own system.

A likely future could see solicitors relying on multiple AI tools at once. If Lexis+ AI is eventually incorporated into Microsoft Word using a plugin, a solicitor could rely on Copilot and Lexs+ AI to prepare documents for clients. For example, the solicitor could ask for an advice letter to Mr John Smith setting out what the inheritance tax position could be based on the data in the questionnaire combined with legal information confirming the availability of various tax allowances and reliefs relying on the Lexis-maintained data. The productivity saving could be huge as the time spent combining legal knowledge and advice with client-specific facts and instructions could be drastically reduced.

This begs the question, what is left for a solicitor to do? As described in the above paragraph, the “AI” is doing most of the work. The solicitor will still need to check everything and confirm that the AI has produced what was intended and the documents are legally correct. There is a concern that as the usage of AI becomes ubiquitous, inevitably, the skill of drafting diminishes through lack of use and the ability of a legal professional to second-guess the AI is reduced. A balance will need to be struck to ensure that young lawyers are comfortable using AI while also building their own drafting skills to ensure that they understand why the AI has done what it’s done.

In 2001: A Space Odyssey, we are shown the direct link of hominids picking up a bone to use as a tool eventually leading to the development of space travel. Perhaps we are those monkeys first clumsily wielding AI.

Related Articles

View All