Dentons’ UKIME innovation head says private ChatGPT fleetAI could be alternative to Copilot 

We speak to Dentons’ UKIME head of innovation Joe Cohen about the global law firm’s launch of its proprietary version of ChatGPT and what the roadmap looks like.

Dentons at the start of August announced the launch of a proprietary version of ChatGPT based on OpenAI’s GPT-4 Large Language Model, which will enable the firm’s lawyers to conduct legal research, generate legal content and identify relevant legal arguments. A second bot allows multiple legal documents to be uploaded so that key data such as clauses and obligations can be extracted, analysed and queried against.  

Dentons’ UKIME head of innovation Joe Cohen says that he has worked with Microsoft to ensure that all data uploaded into fleetAI is not used to train the model, cannot be accessed by anyone outside of Dentons and is erased after 30 days.  

Speaking to Legal IT Insider, Cohen said: “This tool is essentially a front end to the GPT API’s that live in Microsoft Azure. There’s no fine tuning, it’s just the APIs as they are. The main difference is that the front end is all Dentons with our guidance all over it. We have also worked with Microsoft to get their assurance that the data is not used to train the model and is located in the UK to comply with data privacy requirements.” 

There has been intense industry scrutiny and analysis over the use by the legal sector of ChatGPT, but Cohen says of this private instance: “It’s as safe as any other cloud platform.” 

He argues that the bar for acceptability ought to be the same as other tools used by the firm, observing: “Is it Fort Knox? No, it should be the same as the other platforms we grant access to, although in theory Microsoft is probably a bit safer, just naturally, because it’s in Microsoft Azure.” 

In terms of clients, the adoption of fleetai is covered by the firm’s standard terms of business in its engagement letter, which have been in place since January 2020 and Cohen says: “At that point the use of cloud was more of a consideration but now it’s very much standard,” adding, “In the time I’ve been here I have only done one deployment on prem, everything else has been cloud.” 

One of the risks of using ChatGPT is that it is prone to hallucinations, but Cohen says that Dentons has been working with data science company Springbok AI to reduce this risk – although it doesn’t mean it won’t happen.  

Cohen says: “You don’t want the tool making something up that’s in the document that actually isn’t. But if you’re asking it for a value judgement on ‘how do I improve this bit’ or ‘what do you think about this clause’ then you do want it to input. So just finding that line is something that we’ve been trying to do.” 

The internal messaging is that this tool will speed up certain processes but cannot be used to substitute lawyers. Cohen says: “It’s not even just that it might hallucinate, it might also miss key points. This is not a lawyer replacement at the moment, it can only be seen as lawyer augmentation, and I really don’t think that in-house legal teams should use the tool to replace legal advice.” 

Client reaction to fleetai has been overwhelmingly positive, and Cohen says: “I’ve had loads of clients wanting to use the tool and some who want to buy it, which is great. No-one has said we don’t want you to use this.” Dentons is exploring whether clients can buy fleetAI.

Dentons is encouraging its lawyers to use the tool and Cohen says: “Most firms have got blanket bans but we’re saying, we don’t believe that that should be the case. We want you to be at least using it as an inspiration, asking it questions, doing some research.” 

Go live is on 4 September: the roll out has so far been confined to around 50 people including the CEO, senior partners, some trainees and associates and Cohen says: “I’m gradually opening it up and in a couple of weeks to our innovation committee, and around 100 lawyers across the firm will get access to it the week before the launch.” 

Dentons will be running a series of educational webinars about fleetAI, and Cohen says: “Something that we really hammer home is that you must absolutely check the output. The lawyers remain in control and they have to validate the output.” 

The global firm has decided not to be prescriptive about how fleetAI is used when it is rolled out, and Cohen says: “There are loads of potential use cases for this kind of thing. The firm will be asking for feedback and creating practice specific guidance as to what the tool is good and not so good,” adding: “We’ll update that every few months as to, for example, what prompts have worked well.” 

There is a knowledge cut off of September 2021 and Cohen says: “In the guidance we talk about being careful when using this for case research because it doesn’t have the complete information.” 

Perhaps one of the most interesting observations from Cohen is around how fleetAI fits in with Microsoft’s forthcoming gen AI offering Copilot. Cohen says: “It’s really, really expensive and with fleetAI we may not need it. This is definitely a viable alternative, and the other thing is that we have ultimate flexibility, we can do whatever we want, so we have phase two that we’re currently in development of for this, which takes the outputs to a whole new level. There will be bots that do very specific things on document reporting.”  

For the likes of summarising conversations in Teams, which will be available from Copilot with Teams Premium, Dentons is piloting a tool called Cogram, which is at very early stages. Cohen says: “We may end up going with Teams Premium when we get access to that but there’s a lot of plays in this space, and it has been good be able to be proactive and backed by the leadership to look at different things.”