Artifical Intelligence - A December 2023 Roundup

Posted in Latest News on 18 Dec 2023

We’ve covered AI a lot recently here at Douglas Scott, and that’s because it’s a hot topic!

We recently had a vast AI summit at Bletchley Park in the UK. However, we perhaps had the direst warnings yet about the legal sector, with the Department of Education publishing a study indicating that solicitors are second only to telephone salespersons as jobs likely to be exposed to artificial intelligence. That, combined with the recent news that an AI bot managed to pass the first SQE1 exam, and artificial intelligence will be a huge factor in the work of legal professionals in the future.  

To focus on the DoE’s report first, it was designed to look at the impact of AI on UK jobs and training. It found that, regarding exposure to the breakthrough of artificial intelligence, only telephone salespeople ranked higher, especially regarding language learning models. Referring to AI more broadly, the study ranked solicitors twelfth, with the rather generic term ‘legal professionals’ coming in three places higher. The report was calculated by giving occupations what the Department of Education called an ‘AI occupational exposure score,’ which was a calculated measure that looks at the abilities of AI technology, with that technology’s prevalence and its importance to the occupation. Of course, with studies like this, many of these things are assumptions. However, the report concludes that the fields most exposed to AI are more professional occupations, such as finance, law, and business management. It would seem to be perhaps the direst potent of what could come concerning law and the use of artificial intelligence thus far.  

The other significant development regarding artificial intelligence is the recent news that an AI-powered ‘paralegal’ has successfully passed the first SQE exam, achieving a final score of 74%. This was nearly 10% greater than the highest pass average of 65%, with the bot getting 67 of the 90 questions correct and demonstrating knowledge on a broad range of topics, such as contract, property, crime, and trusts law. There were areas where the bot struggled with questions with more complex logic and those with a broader context to consider. Perhaps most notably, the bot struggled to understand the difference between similar but not identical terms (for example, public and private nuisance). It’s clear then that while artificial intelligence can be used for a wide range of things, it still struggles with perhaps the finer points of law that only a human can understand. They also used the same AI to look at a will and probate case, which was also looked at by a human, to see whether they could do the same job. It was noted that while the AI could ask all the right questions, it was a very transactional conversation and lacked empathy. In addition, it failed to ask specific necessary questions about their late relatives’ spending habits and understand the broader context of the matter. So, while AI can be taught how to pass an exam, the finer points of law do seem to elude it, at least for now.   

Overall, it seems artificial intelligence is continuing to evolve, perhaps even faster than people can anticipate. While the Department of Education’s report might be seen as a cause for concern, it does not mean that thousands of jobs will be lost overnight. As for the AI paralegal, it’s clear that having a vast bank of knowledge to draw upon might be a great asset, but it certainly shouldn’t be the be-all-and-end-all of law firms. After all, there is still the desire for the personal touch in a digital world, and we’ve seen examples of artificial intelligence making costly mistakes this year. We’ll continue to follow developments in AI technology into the new year and beyond and what effect this will have on the legal sector in the future. 

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