By Carol Lynn Grow, COO of LawToolBox
At the beginning of June, Microsoft held its first major in-person event, Microsoft Build (“Build”). Build is a developer-centric annual event, and the main theme was, of course, AI. As an independent software vendor and Microsoft partner, we were paying special attention to how these announcements will impact legal technologies and the practice of law.
In his opening keynote on the first day of Build, Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft, declared “Every layer of the software stack WILL BE CHANGED FOREVER.” With the monumental shifts in AI technology in recent months, the in-person experience had an air of shared excitement for building the future, combined with much uncertainty on how AI will impact people’s lives.
One of the primary ways Microsoft is incorporating AI into products is by rolling out “Copilots” across the Microsoft stack. A “copilot” is an AI-powered tool that works “inside, beside or outside” Microsoft 365 apps to help users with tasks such as writing, editing, summarizing, creating, and more, using natural language commands and personalized suggestions. Leading up to Build, Microsoft announced the new OpenAI technology, called Copilot, will be available in some of the company’s most popular business apps like Word, PowerPoint, Excel and Microsoft Teams. In conversations with product managers at Build there was the emphasis on “Co” part of “Copilot” to make it clear that people are in the driver’s seat.
The business case for using AI in the legal vertical took a front and center role at the conference.
In the first 15 minutes of the Microsoft Build keynote, Microsoft used 3 different examples in the LEGAL vertical for how legal professionals can be more productive at work using “plugins” by Thomson Reuters for Microsoft 365 copilot:
1-Draft clauses and documents using natural language to ask the “Practical Law” plugin to create a limitation of liability clause
2- Analyze the enforceability of a “limitation of liability” clause under California law using a “Westlaw” plugin
3- Summarize the changes to the document use the “document intelligence” plugin
These third-party plugins enhanced the native capabilities of Microsoft Copilot by combining information from the third-party unique data set with the AI capabilities. For example, in the above use-case the third party plugin adds value to AI drafting a clause because it leverages a proprietary library of clauses, and the tool to analyze case law has value because it is grounded in a proprietary library of case law.
Later at Build, Kevin Scott, Microsoft’s CTO, interviewed Greg Brockman, the President and co-founder of OpenAI, the company that developed ChatGPT with support from Microsoft. And as the last point to be made when that interview wrapped up, the focus of Build 2023 again shifted to the legal vertical to describe the use-cases for how developers and third-parties can leverage and amplify ChatGPT:
“[T]he thing that I think every developer can do that is hard for [Microsoft] to do, is to really go into specific domains and figure out how to make this technology work there. I really like [Developers and third-party] companies that are in the legal domain and really getting expertise, and talking to lots of lawyers, and understanding what their pain points are with this technology. And so I think there’s a huge amount of value to be added by the efforts of everyone.” The era of the AI copilot, Microsoft Build 2023.
The Microsoft Build focus on the legal industry was a natural place to apply the AI. Instead of a room of attorneys researching and reading through hundreds of legal authorities over a week, imagine AI performing that review in minutes. Instead of an attorney writing a motion for summary judgment over days or weeks, imagine AI creating your first draft with a simple click. Instead of a team of paralegals spending weeks reviewing millions of documents produced by opposing counsel, imagine AI doing a first review and summarizing key exhibits while you wait.
Microsoft Build 2023 was a landmark event for technology enthusiasts and developers, with an unshakeable focus on artificial intelligence (AI). While the Large Language Model (“LLM”) allows ChatGPT to digest and be “trained” on huge amounts of data, one of the more powerful features is the ability to limit the data that is being considered. An important part of the Microsoft vision for AI is to confine or limit the use of AI to data within a user’s own tenant. By restricting the data to the end-users own private data, it helps to preserve the integrity of the AI results and allows ChatGPT to be used in a way that preserves confidentiality and privacy of client data.
Beyond legal, the event featured over 50 updates and announcements, ranging from new tools and platforms to integrations and partnerships. Among the highlights were the integration of Bing into ChatGPT to produce more reliable results and reduce the famous “hallucinations”, the launch of Windows Copilot to facilitate and streamline workflow, the unveiling of Azure AI Studio to accelerate the incorporation of AI into development, and the new data analytics platform Microsoft Fabric which will give law firms better insight into the metrics that win or lose case, as well as helping to make their practice more profitable.
The introduction of OpenAI and Copilots to the Microsoft ecosystem, could be described as a tectonic shift, a watershed moment, revolutionary, and more. The full story of how this moment will impact productivity and the practice of law (and beyond) has yet to be written. One thing that is certain is that ChatGPT and AI made a huger splash at Microsoft Build 2023, it has injected the new enthusiasm into Microsoft and third parties who develop to the Graph API, it has profound implications for how the practice of law will be practiced.
Carol Lynn Grow is COO of LawToolBox, a cloud-based law firm calendaring and process automation system.
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