Participating in the Summit on Legal Innovation and Disruption (SOLID) in Chicago last week was an eye-opening experience for many, including me. Lots of terrific content was presented and discussed among a smart and innovative group of participants, including in-house and outside legal professionals and consultants. The impact of ChatGPT and other generative artificial intelligence was a recurring theme. My presentation was on the question of when (not if) work currently performed by lawyers and other legal professionals is likely to be replaced by artificial intelligence. Highlights included:
- Don’t panic. We are not obsolete yet. More than 20 years ago, Bill Gates said “We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten.”
- Do start to prepare. Gates went on to say “Don’t let yourself be lulled into inaction.” Being prepared includes being ready to leverage AI, by learning how to use it (e.g. what queries are available and effective), as well as its limitations. At a minimum, humans will be needed to leverage and harness AI, as well as to deal with the myriad of new questions, ethical issues, and even new liability risks that come with generative AI.
- Avoid feeding confidential data into the free version of ChatGPT — it does not yet protect confidentiality or privilege.
- Don’t trust ChatGPT or similar AI programs to provide accurate information. At times it does. At other times, it provides information that sounds convincing, but actually is false (what is termed “hallucinations”). These programs can also “learn” and reflect biases. Accordingly, anything ChatGPT produces needs to be carefully checked.
We are alive at an exciting time and have already lived through some amazing technological changes that make us far more efficient. In my case, I started working as a lawyer pre-smartphones, pre-email, and pre-public internet. Those in my generation who are most successful have not just adapted, but have also embraced technological change and the greater capabilities and efficiencies it brings. The first to embrace new technology (with the requisite caution) have the potential to achieve the greatest success.
And the pace of change is still accelerating. Our world will look quite different 5-10 years from now. If you are open to those changes, flexible about changing roles, and willing to learn new skills, then you will continue to be successful. In the meantime, be sure to maintain interests and relationships outside of your work life because it may not be too long before you have a shorter work week and more time to pursue those outside interests!