Technology as your assistant. And no, robots are not coming for your job (yet!)
We are not even through the first quarter of 2023 and it promises to be the year that legal technology news continues to astonish even those who routinely track its progress! We have all heard or read about the artificial intelligence (AI) tool known as “large language models.” Large language models are the AI tools that allow us to interact with computer systems by talking or typing to them and have them respond in a human-like way. Chatbots for customer service, Apple’s Siri, Google home devices and Amazon Echo are increasingly well-known examples. We tried it out, too.
Controversies late last year highlighted a Google system called LaMDA that sounded so human it sparked debate about the meaning of sentience, ChatGPT, a tool released by OpenAI, that can be prompted to write essays about specific topics that replicate something a student or even professional author might compose, and another Google effort that trained a computer to successfully play the board game Diplomacy, which requires strategic negotiations with other players. Based on these achievements, it doesn’t take much imagination to wonder how well a properly trained ‘robot’ could mimic the guidance of a mediator helping parties resolve a dispute.
The World’s First Robot Lawyer?
The 2023 legal technology splash nudges that scenario along with an announcement by DoNotPay.com, which bills itself as “… the home of the world’s first robot lawyer.” DoNotPay has been around since 2015 specializing in using AI to automate legal or quasi-legal communications in repetitive cases of low value, like contesting parking and traffic tickets, drafting small claims consumer complaints and the like. In January, however, DoNotPay announced that it will vicariously ‘represent’ a client in a New York traffic court case, with a human agreeing to repeat to the court only what the DoNotPay computer system tells them to say through an earpiece. In addition, DoNotPay has offered $1 million to any party and legal counsel who agrees to represent a client before the U.S. Supreme Court on the same basis – only repeating what the computer system says.
While clearly a publicity stunt, it taps into a serious interest in the impact technology may have on professionals in industries thought to be uniquely resistant to automation. Interest runs high. Northwestern University Law School professor Daniel Linna recently hosted a panel discussion titled, “ChatGPT: A Revolution for Legal AI?” Professor Linna’s panel attracted an audience that filled two Northwestern University lecture halls and over 370 people watching online.
Tools to work alongside the Mediator
There is good news, however. The general consensus is this type of technology has a long way to go before it threatens to replace lawyers or other professionals such as mediators in the full suite of skills they employ. Most experts view these systems as a set of future tools that will work alongside the practitioner, relieving them of some of the more repetitive tasks while allowing them to focus on complex, unique or very dynamic situations where a computer system’s deep historical database – a necessary element of the ‘training’ – has less relevance.
A practitioner can still benefit from the use of today’s technology, however. There are basic, straightforward technology tools that already exist. A simple case management solution like ADR Notable is available to help manage many of the basic, repetitive and time-consuming tasks related to dispute management. In 2022, we added features to tackle the two tasks we heard about from practitioners most frequently – generating and tracking invoices and payments, and scheduling meetings for multiple participants at a convenient time for all. With these additions, ADR Notable is the most comprehensive digital assistant available to the busy practitioner or firm administrator, with features that streamline every step of the common processes allowing the professional to be more organized with less effort, more productive and creative when the need arises. We hope you’ll take a few minutes to see what our technology can do for you right now – before the robots come!