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Legal notes: Meet Leah and Harvey, your new virtual legal assistants

John Bleasby
Legal notes: Meet Leah and Harvey, your new virtual legal assistants

First, full disclosure: This column was not written by AI or ChatBot.

That said, and with all the chatter about AI threats to journalism, we ask: What does the future hold for AI technology in the legal profession?

Surely there are a number of significant efficiencies to be gained.

One such AI services hub designed for the legal professional is called Ask Leah. It’s a platform recently launched by ContractPodAi, headquartered in London, U.K. and with offices in other major cities including Toronto.

“Ask Leah helps users search through thousands of contracts for insights or simply interact with a single contract via an interactive chatbot powered by ChatGPT,” the company said in a media release. “With real-time queries in relation to the contracts with smart prompts and guidance. Instead of reading the entire contract, users can just ‘Ask Leah.’”

A similar platform called Harvey comes from OpenAI, the people who have quickly brought ChatGPT into the global sphere of popular discussion.

There’s no question AI platforms have the potential to be very smart. As reported by CNN, OpenAI put its latest version of Harvey through a simulated law school exam. It scored in the top 10 per cent.

In addition to answering legal questions, Harvey can also produce legal documents such as contracts, research memos or pleadings. Harvey is reportedly being used by international law firm Allen & Overy, with up to 25 per cent of their lawyers using the technology every day.

It sounds promising.

However, consideration of AI and ChatBots’ potential from the legal profession’s standpoint is only one angle. A question construction executives might ask themselves is, “Do I still need a lawyer?”

According to LawGPT, a vendor of legal AI templates and platforms, the answer is yes.

“It is still advisable to have a lawyer review the generated documents to ensure that they are legally sound and meet the needs of the business. That being said the results are amazing.”

Questions of efficiencies balanced with cautions are outlined by PatSnap, an international technology company that helps clients use AI-powered and machine learning technology by combing through billions of datasets. It offers two sides of the issue that each requires serious consideration.

“The increasing use of AI in the legal profession promises to make legal services faster, more accurate, and more accessible,” they write. “However, this transformation raises important ethical questions, including the possibility of bias and the question of accountability.”

Matters of bias intersect with the concerns over accuracy, says PatSnap. AI can sometimes produce inaccurate work, called a hallucination, by inventing facts or simply making educated guesses based on the quality of data at its disposal.

“There are risks the data can be manipulated to create biased or incorrect responses,” PatSnap continues. “It can also mean that the system is trained on bad legal work or outdated or obsolete information. The user of the AI system will rarely know what data the AI system has been trained on, making it difficult to know if these issues are present.”

Confidentiality and privilege is also a concern, something that extends beyond the legal profession into every walk of today’s life.

Attempts to deal with that, along with many other privacy concerns, are being covered by proposed Canadian legislation called AIDA, or the Artificial Intelligence Data Act. Although the legislation may not be perfect, Howard Solomon writes in that it deserves support.

“We feel the current proposal is directionally sound and successfully balances the protection of Canadians and the imperative for innovation. Crucially, it puts forward a legislative framework for AI that will be supported by regulations and standards, making it agile enough to adapt to new capabilities and applications of AI as it continues to evolve.”

The introductions of the Internet, smartphones and social media have each challenged society to adapt and embrace their benefits while being cognisant of the risks. This will be critical in a new world of AI and ChatBots.

John Bleasby is a Coldwater, Ont.-based freelance writer. Send comments and Legal Notes column ideas to

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