With demand for AI lawyers climbing by a whopping 230% in the UK over the last year, the question of the role of Artificial Intelligence in legal practice is one that remains ever-pertinent. The latest development in this discourse comes courtesy of Lawhive, a trailblazing legal technology firm that has created an AI paralegal named Lawrence.
Lawrence believed to be the first ever AI to be 'hired' in such a capacity, has not only been conceptualised to assist Lawhive's countrywide team of solicitors and legal experts but also rose to the challenge of successfully completing and passing the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE1). It is worth noting that the SQE1 is an examination that all solicitors must take and pass to qualify.
Indeed, Lawrence did more than merely pass. In an exam where a 55-65% score usually marks the threshold for passing, Lawrence scored 74%, proving his adeptness at understanding and responding thoughtfully to various legal situations, including contract law and criminal litigation. His performance showed no clear patterns in the questions answered incorrectly, mainly regarding complex chains of logic and broader contexts. Interestingly, Lawrence demonstrated some difficulty when presented with two similar concepts, for instance, public nuisance versus private nuisance.
A research experiment was conducted to probe further into Lawrence's functional abilities wherein he was presented with the same probate case as a human counterpart. The goal was to compare the technical legal knowledge, tone, empathy and general client interaction.
Although Lawrence successfully gathered all crucial information about the matter, his responses were identified as transactional and notably without the same depth of human empathy that can often surround a probate case.
When addressing feedback regarding Lawrence's patient interaction, the client felt that the responses indicated a lack of empathy compared to the human counterpart. Lawrence also missed out on probing the client regarding their deceased relative's spending habits, failing to identify potential financial liabilities crucial for the probate case.
Lawhive's Co-founder and AI expert, Flinn Dolman, argued that Lawrence's appointment speaks volumes to the broader conversation of AI in legal practice. He stated, "We created Lawrence as a resource to support some of our legal experts at Lawhive. It was important to test Lawrence's legal knowledge, and he managed to pass SQE1, demonstrating his functioning legal knowledge in line with the SRA's expectations."
Dolman admitted while Lawrence's legal knowledge matched expectations, the practice of law is not limited to theoretical knowledge alone. He added, "At this time, it's clear that AI will not be replacing the value that human connection provides in a solicitor and client experience, but using AI that's equipped with theoretical legal knowledge allows our legal experts and solicitors to create efficiencies."
Lawhive's future plans include continuing to explore Lawrence's skill set against various legal scenarios and harnessing his potential to facilitate more minor legal tasks while prioritising client relationships. Encouragingly, the company is committed to a continued evaluation of Lawrence's progress and will seek valuable feedback from clients as he supports future casework.