Please share your background and experience in practicing law with a focus on AI. How has your career evolved as this technology has advanced? As the founding General Counsel at OpenAI (2017-2021), I was constantly faced with novel issues relating to every stage of AI development and deployment. Much of the law relating to AI was (and remains) unsettled, but drawing on my background in IP law and with the help of others in the industry, I was able to develop some sense of how existing IP principles would be mapped onto the AI landscape and advise OpenAI accordingly.
Additionally, while at OpenAI I was often approached by people working on creative ways to harness the power of AI in the legal context. Whether it was using AI to democratize access to legal services or to make contract review more efficient, the potential of AI as a powerful tool for lawyers and non-lawyers alike was clear. My personal use of AI-assisted legal tools has increased significantly over the past several months due to the recent and dramatic increase in quality and availability.
What are some potential benefits and challenges that lawyers and law firms should be aware of when using these tools? I've found AI tools to be like a helpful intern - the work product is usually pretty good, but I still have to review, verify, and edit.
The benefits include increased efficiency (automating time-consuming tasks like document review and contract analysis, drafting, and summarizing long documents) and better legal research (quickly analyzing and summarizing legal authority), all of which would reduce operational costs.
But there are significant challenges. Accuracy can be a big problem. Generative AI will confidently produce results that sound right because that is what it was designed to do - predict what is likely to come next. But that does not mean it is accurate. Any output should be closely checked and verified. Don't be like the attorney who recently filed an affidavit apologizing for using generative AI to write a brief that included detailed - but entirely fake - legal authority. Another issue is security - lawyers should be careful not to upload confidential information unless they are sure that such information will be kept secure. And while speed and efficiency may be appealing to in-house counsel and clients, that may sit differently with law firms and their hordes of attorneys billing by the hour.
How can AI tools be used by in-house legal teams ethically and effectively? What are some ways that AI has changed your legal practice? In-house legal teams should remember that these AI tools are just that - tools. They can be harnessed to work smarter and more efficiently, but attorneys can not hand over the reins to the AI and let it run rampant through their legal practice. Oversight is important - teams using AI need to make sure the results are accurate.
What excites you the most about the future of AI? Any general thoughts you would like to share? AI tools are getting better every day - more powerful, more accurate, and more ubiquitous. Even over the last few months, the progress has been incredible. At that rate, it is hard to imagine how things will be a year from now. I'm excited to see how companies harness the power of AI to automate mundane tasks, leaving more time for us humans to focus our energies on things we find to be more interesting and intellectually stimulating.