For the entire history of human civilization, the ability to put words together intelligently, whether spoken or written, has indicated an underlying level of understanding and a general level of intelligence of the speaker or writer. The development of Generative AI may be a major milestone in the creation of artificial intelligence, but it also represents the decoupling of language from intelligence.

To say that “GenAI has passed the bar exam”, is actually saying that GenAI can string together words that, if they were written by a human being, would indicate that the writer had a baseline understanding of the law.  But that is fundamentally different from actually having a baseline understanding of the law.  GenAI doesn’t understand “the law”.  It doesn’t understand the meaning of the word “law”, any more than it understands the meaning of the word “fish”.  GenAI understands exactly one thing and one thing only, the probability that the next word in the sentence is “law”.  Or “fish”.  Or “understanding”.

Okay, there is a bit more going on under the hood, but at its heart, that is what a large language model does. It chooses the next word to write from the most probable next words available.

I won’t say that GenAI “knows nothing”.  The probability of the next word that will come, within the context you’ve been given, is most definitely “something”.  It’s a “something” that we probably all do unconsciously in simplified form as we write and speak sentences.  In fact, AI scientists may have unlocked the digital equivalent of the biological mental processes we use as we write and speak.  Except that for a human to generate coherent text or speech, requires a baseline understanding of the world around them; a minimal passing knowledge of a language’s grammar, rules of sentence construction, and vocabulary; and a simple comprehension of the difference between things and symbols that refer to those things, even if the human can’t actually articulate any of that.  This means that requiring a human being to write or speak about their knowledge is a pretty good way to test whether they actually know what they say they know.  Asking a computer to do the same tells you how good the computer’s language probability model is.

Generative AI bypasses all of the standard human language requirements and just knows symbols and how likely people were to write one particular symbol after a series of other symbols in the past.  There are several examples of still undeciphered writing systems around the world. I have no doubt that given a sufficient quantity of text written in those languages an LLM could generate volumes more content that we still could not decipher, but a native reader would probably understand.  Still, GenAI could not translate that text and tell us what it was writing, because it simply calculates probability of recurring patterns, it doesn’t understand language.  Or anything else.  That remarkable skill to calculate probability means that GenAI can write a perfectly coherent and intelligent essay on the differences between laws and fishes, without knowing a law from a fish in any meaningful sense. Whereas, to do the same, a person would have to have a substantial understanding of both laws and fishes, or they would quickly be called out by people who knew a lot about one or the other.

We humans have historically conflated strong language skills with intelligence and understanding for a very good reason; we have only ever existed in a world where the two were inextricably linked.  Prior to the development of GenAI, if you could use language skillfully to make your points, it indicated that you were knowledgeable in that particular subject.  Now it indicates you’re either knowledgeable in that subject or you’re skilled at prompting the AI to appear to be knowledgeable in that subject and, demonstrably, those are not the same.

Those of us who rely in part on our language skills to make a living, whether we’re lawyers, consultants, or writers are not in trouble in the way that the doomsayers claim.  GenAI will not replace a knowledgeable person, because it’s their knowledge and their ability to apply that knowledge in novel situations that is actually valuable. The language is just how they express that knowledge. GenAI as a tool in the hands of a knowledgeable person will only increase the value of that person’s knowledge.  However, those of us who rely on language skills to prove we’re the smartest kids in the class, on the other hand, we’re kinda screwed.

In the latest episode of “The Geek in Review,” Marlene Gebauer hosts a fascinating conversation with Sonja Ebron and Debra Slone, the dynamic couple behind Courtroom5, a pioneering startup in the Justice Tech space aimed at empowering pro se litigants. As part of the “Love & Legal Tech” series we discuss the personal and professional relationship that propels Courtroom5 forward, providing valuable insights into the intersection of love, partnership, and innovation in the legal tech industry.

Courtroom5 stands out in the Justice Tech sector by offering a unique platform designed to educate, encourage, and empower individuals representing themselves in court. Sonja, as CEO, orchestrates a broad range of responsibilities, from technical leadership to marketing efforts, while Debra, wielding her expertise as a PhD Librarian and CTO, focuses on managing the extensive content that forms the backbone of Courtroom5’s service. Their combined efforts have earned Courtroom5 recognition and awards, underscoring the impact of their work on providing accessible legal support to those without formal legal representation.

The story of how Sonja and Debra met over a game of spades in Durham, North Carolina, adds a personal touch to their professional narrative, highlighting the serendipitous beginnings of their relationship and eventual collaboration. This personal bond, fortified by shared experiences and a mutual understanding of being “screwed over in court,” has been instrumental in shaping the vision and mission of Courtroom5. Their complementary skills – Sonja’s technical acumen and Debra’s information management prowess – enable them to tackle the challenges of running a startup while fostering a shared passion for justice and empowerment.

Working together, however, is not without its challenges. Sonja and Debra candidly discuss the continuous effort required to balance their professional and personal lives, emphasizing the necessity of intentional scheduling and the discipline to separate business discussions from personal time. This ongoing negotiation between their roles as business partners and life partners is a testament to their commitment to both their relationship and their venture.

Their advice to other couples considering a similar path is poignant: prioritize the personal relationship, ensure a solid foundation before embarking on a business venture together, and select a partner who can significantly contribute to the business’s success. Sonja and Debra’s story is not just about love and legal tech; it’s a narrative of resilience, mutual respect, and the unyielding belief in their mission to democratize legal support. Their story is an inspiring reminder of the power of partnership in navigating the challenges and triumphs of entrepreneurship.

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Music: ⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠Jerry David DeCicca⁠⁠⁠⁠

⁠Transcript

Continue Reading Love and Legal Tech: Sonja Ebron and Debra Slone of Courtroom5

In the latest episode of “The Geek in Review” podcast, hosts Greg Lambert and Marlene Gebauer continue their series of interviews at the 2024 LegalWeek conference with guest Bill Piwonka, the Chief Marketing Officer at Exterro. The conversation dives into Exterro’s participation at LegalWeek, highlighting the return to pre-COVID attendance levels and the company’s successful engagement with customers, prospects, and partners. Piwonka shares insights into Exterro’s focus on managing digital risk through the convergence of privacy, compliance, legal operations, litigation support, and cybersecurity response, emphasizing the importance of understanding and mitigating data risk. The discussion also covers Exterro’s recent announcement of an existing AI assistant, which differentiates itself by being immediately available for use, contrasting with other future-promised AI technologies.

Piwonka elaborates on the broader industry trends, including the pressures on Chief Legal Officers (CLOs) to reduce budgets while expanding responsibilities, as highlighted in a survey conducted with the ACC. He emphasizes the significance of operationalizing and optimizing legal processes to meet these challenges efficiently. The conversation also touches on the differences in ESG strategy between CLOs in the US and those internationally, suggesting cultural and political influences on these approaches.

Looking to the future, Piwonka anticipates continued expansion of the CLO’s role and responsibilities, especially in managing digital risk and ensuring responsible AI use. He predicts a shift in job roles and the creation of new employment opportunities as AI technologies evolve, rather than a reduction in employment. Piwonka concludes with suggestions on how to connect with Exterro for more information, highlighting the importance of platforms like LinkedIn and the company’s website. The podcast emphasizes the evolving landscape of legal technology and digital risk management, with AI playing a crucial role in shaping future practices and strategies within the legal profession.

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⁠Transcript

We kick off our new “Love & Legal Tech” series this week where we embark on a journey to explore the personal and professional lives of couples in the legal tech industry. We are excited to interview couples who share in the excitement of weaving their professional endeavors into their personal relationships. We think this is going to be a great series where couples get a chance to tell their stories of how they balance what one of our guests describes as “Work-Life-Integration.”

Our inaugural guests, Alex Macdonald and Cassie Vertovec share their unique story of how a solid professional collaboration slowly turned into a deep, personal connection.  Alex, the Chief Strategy Officer at McCarter and English, LLP, and Cassie, the Practice Director of Corporate and Director of Practice Strategies at Barnes & Thornburg, began their journey in the legal tech world at Seyfarth Shaw.  Over the years they have found themselves leading teams together, moving across the country, isolating together during the pandemic, and most recently working in similar firms. They navigated their careers with mutual respect and understanding, highlighting the importance of communication and shared values in both their professional and personal lives.

They provide insights into the dynamics of working as a couple while maintaining a balance between work and persona life. Which is no easy feat as they are both intertwined with the legal profession. Their story is a testament to the idea that professional collaboration can lead to personal growth and deeper connections.

Our hopes with the “Love & Legal Tech” series are that we not only offer a glimpse into the lives of a couple navigating love and legal tech but also shed light on broader themes within the legal industry, including the shift towards greater tech integration and the challenges and opportunities it presents. Our sincere thanks to Cassie and Alex for sharing their story with us on this series premiere.

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Music: ⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠Jerry David DeCicca⁠⁠⁠⁠

⁠Transcript

Continue Reading Love and Legal Tech: Cassie Vertovec and Alex Macdonald

In the second of a special series of interviews from Legal Week 2024 , co-hosts Greg Lambert and Marlene Gebauer welcomed Mollie Nichols, CEO, and Mark Noel, Chief Information and Technology Officer of Redgrave Data. Nichols and Noel discuss Redgrave Data’s mission to cut through the hype of legal tech innovations, particularly generative AI. Nichols emphasized the company’s focus on delivering custom solutions that meet clients’ actual needs and highlighted the importance of educating the legal community on effectively integrating new technologies into their practices.

Mark Noel emphasized the strategic addition of data scientists to their team, enabling Redgrave Data to develop and advise on cutting-edge technologies. He stressed the importance of applying generative AI judiciously, pointing out its limitations and the potential for misuse if not properly vetted. Noel and Nichols shared insights on navigating the legal tech landscape, emphasizing efficiency, data management, and the careful evaluation of tech solutions.

Looking forward, Noel predicted a recalibration of expectations for generative AI in the legal industry, suggesting a period of disillusionment might follow the initial hype. Conversely, Nichols expressed optimism about the industry’s ability to thoughtfully incorporate new technologies, enhancing legal practices through careful testing and integration. Their discussion underscored the evolving nature of legal tech and the critical role of strategic implementation in leveraging its benefits.

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⁠Transcript

Continue Reading LegalWeek 2024 Special Part Two: Mollie Nichols and Mark Noel from Redgrave Data

Welcome to the first of a few special Legal Week 2024 edition episodes of “The Geek in Review,” where we looked for innovative and creative ideas on the road and recorded live from the bustling environment of the 2024 Legal Week conference in New York.

Marlene Gebauer notes the transformation of Legal Week into a thought leadership conference, with a special mention of keynote speaker Bryan Cranston’s impactful talk on storytelling, branding, and the thoughtful application of AI in both the acting world and the legal tech space.

Joey Seeber, the guest for this episode, brings his experience and insights as the representative of Level Legal, a company that recently celebrated its 15th anniversary. Seeber shares the origin story of Level Legal, starting from its humble beginnings in 2009 in East Texas, evolving from a document review team within a law firm to a full-service eDiscovery and forensics company based in Dallas. Underlining the transition from paper to digital and the challenges of data hygiene, Seeber emphasizes the company’s growth and its focus on human-centric service in the legal tech industry.

Discussing the influence of generative AI and other technological advancements on legal services, Seeber provides a grounded perspective on the hype versus the reality of AI’s impact on the industry. He stresses the importance of human-to-human connections and hospitality in legal services, suggesting that while technical skills are essential, the ability to serve and delight clients sets Level Legal apart. Seeber notes the challenges of adapting to various eDiscovery platforms, the importance of a diverse skill set among staff, and the evolving roles within the legal tech ecosystem. Seeber’s vision for Level Legal includes a focus on what he terms the “excellence reflex” – a combination of curiosity, service instinct, and the anticipation of client needs.

In the “crystal ball” segment, Seeber cautiously predicts the trajectory of generative AI in legal tech, suggesting that significant changes may be more gradual than some expect. He reflects on the legal industry’s slow pace of adoption and the importance of integrating new technologies thoughtfully and effectively.

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⁠Transcript

Continue Reading Legal Week 2024 Special Part One: Joey Seeber of Level Legal

This week, Greg Lambert sat down with Caroline Hill, Editor-in-Chief for Legal IT Insider to discuss the new partnership with NetLaw Media. Hill described the new partnership between Legal IT Insider and NetLaw Media as a mutually beneficial collaboration with significant synergy between the two organizations. She emphasized the complementarity of their focuses, with Legal IT Insider’s emphasis on impartial coverage and promotion of various conferences in the legal tech sector, and NetLaw Media’s focus on technology and IT security. Hill noted that both organizations share common sponsors and audiences, which enhances the partnership’s potential​​.

She also mentioned the importance of working with Frances Anderson, the chief executive of NetLaw Media. Hill pointed out that NetLaw Media has been running the British Legal Technology Forum for years, indicating a deep involvement in the legal tech community.

Greg and Caroline also discussed the dramatic change in Legal Tech in 2023, and the continued shift in the industry as demands increase on law firms and others to truly implement AI solutions in 2024.

Hill pointed out that many law firms lack the expertise to build AI solutions themselves and therefore rely heavily on their business partners (vendors) for these capabilities. She suggested that the solution might lie in leaning on these business partners, but noted the challenge of justifying the costs to law firm leadership. She further mentioned the challenge of capacity and waitlists for AI projects, indicating that this has become a source of competition among law firms. The ability to quickly understand and adapt to the requirements of working with AI and establish effective vendor relationships is crucial for law firms to stay competitive and relevant in the rapidly evolving legal tech landscape​​.

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Music: ⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠Jerry David DeCicca⁠⁠⁠⁠

⁠Transcript

Continue Reading Navigating the Future of Legal Tech with Caroline Hill (TGIR Ep. 233)

In this episode, Marlene Gebauer interviews attendees at two recent legal tech conferences – the TLTF Summit and the Legal AI Pathfinder’s Assembly. She asks them about the biggest impacts they foresee AI and other innovations having on the legal industry in 2024. Their responses range from predictions that AI will help automate legal workflows and build tools faster, to allowing for better data analytics and metrics to improve client relationships and retention.

Marlene and Greg comment on the various perspectives shared. Key themes that emerge include leveraging AI to improve efficiency and processes, being cautious not to move too quickly, opportunities to reduce legal costs and enhance Access to Justice and hopes that 2024 will see AI tools become more practical and move beyond “party tricks”. While recognizing the excitement around AI, they emphasize focusing on real business problems to solve rather than just implementing solutions for their own sake.

List of Speakers:

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Music: ⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠Jerry David DeCicca⁠⁠⁠⁠

Transcript

Continue Reading Projections for Legal Tech and Innovations in 2024 (TGIR Ep. 232)

In this episode, Greg Lambert speaks with Whitney Triplet, Paul Campbell, and Adonica Black about the LexisNexis African Ancestry Network and LexisNexis Rule of Law Foundation Fellowship 2023 cohort. They discuss the goal of the fellowship program and the projects undertaken by the fellows, including technology solutions to alleviate racial bias in jury selection and law clinic support tools to combat systemic racism in the legal system. The conversation also covers the role of analytics in identifying and addressing disparities in the legal system, as well as the future of the fellowship program and initiatives.
Takeaways
  • The LexisNexis African Ancestry Network and LexisNexis Rule of Law Foundation Fellowship aims to tackle systemic racism and inequities in the legal system through technology solutions and project-based approaches.
  • Projects undertaken by the fellows include developing a mobile app to increase literacy and comprehension of critical rule of law concepts, creating an accessible repository of inclusive curriculum resources for law school instruction, and building bridges for HBCU students to legal fields that lack diversity.
  • The fellows’ research focuses on addressing racial bias in jury selection and improving legal clinics to provide better access to justice for underrepresented individuals.
  • The use of analytics and technology can help identify and address disparities in the legal system, but it requires diverse data sets and a recognition of biases to ensure equitable outcomes.

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Music: ⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠Jerry David DeCicca⁠⁠⁠⁠

Transcript

Continue Reading Breaking Barriers and Building Bridges: Tackling Racial Bias in Law with LexisNexis Fellows 2023 (TGIR Ep. 231)

This week we catch up with Jeff Pfeifer and Serena Wellen from LexisNexis to discuss the rapid development of AI tools for the legal industry over the past year. Pfeifer and Wellen give us an insider’s view of what it took to bring their Lexis+ AI tool to the market and the balance between speed to market and getting solid customer guidance on what they need in a legal-focused Generative AI tool. Between the initial version released to a select group of customers and the current version, the product grew from an open-ended chat interface into more of a guided resource that helps users on creating and following up on prompts. As with most AI tools created in the past year, there is still more potential as more and more customers use it and give critical feedback along the way.

In addition to Lexis+ AI, LexisNexis has now launched two additional AI products – Lexis Snapshot and Lexis Create. Lexis Snapshot summarizes legal complaints to help firms monitor litigation. Lexis Create brings AI capabilities directly into Microsoft Word to assist with drafting and research while lawyers are working on documents. The goal is to embed insights where lawyers are actually doing their work rather than separate AI tools.

While the focus of the initial Generative AI tools from LexisNexis were focused on the US market, Serena Wellen and her team are busy expanding that to more of an international reach. This requires adapting the models, content, and interface to different languages and legal systems. This is complex undertaking, but Wellen discusses how LexisNexis has content and editors around the world to help customize the tools. Surprisingly, desired use cases are fairly consistent globally – both simple legal tasks as well as more advanced legal research and drafting.

Greg Lambert brings up a recent LinkedIn discussion that he had with Microsoft’s Jason Barnwell, where Barnwell told him that today’s version of Generative AI tools are “the worst these things will ever be.” In response, Pfeifer says that LexisNexis is focused on continuously improving answer quality to build trust and prove the value of AI to skeptical lawyers. LexisNexis is leveraging relationships with companies like Microsoft to reinforce the stability and progress being made.

Wellen and Pfeifer look into the future and predicted that AI assistants will become highly personalized to individual lawyers. AI agents will also proliferate across platforms to help automate tasks and workflows. Law firms will likely accelerate their adoption of AI tools based on rising expectations and demands from corporate legal departments to work more efficiently.

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Email: geekinreviewpodcast@gmail.com
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Transcript

Continue Reading Pfeifer and Wellen Give an Inside Look at LexisNexis’ AI Sprint (TGIR Ep. 230)