An inside look into being an AI Attorney.
“Imagination is the only limit”.
That’s how Legal Product Manager and Attorney, Natasha Anzik, describes her role working at contract AI review tech company, LexCheck.
It’s a Tuesday evening in Toronto, Canada. Natasha could easily pass off as an honorary Melbournian here in Australia, dressed in all black.
Her enthusiasm transcends the Zoom screen. She is quick to tell me that her legal career has not been “super long”, but it’s apparent that she’s mature beyond her legal PQE years. Natasha can hold her own. And I’m all for it.
After a conventional start to her career working at a full-service law firm in Canada, Natasha was inspired by the innovative mindset of the firm’s many start up clients. She chose privacy law as her speciality because she was genuinely interested in the area, but also with the foresight that she could leverage those skills in future given her parallel interest in tech.
After two years at the firm and having the benefit of some solid reflection time during lockdown, Natasha started networking with those that had pursued alternative legal career paths. Coincidentally, one of the attorneys working at LexCheck in New York was a fellow Law School classmate which allowed her to “get an inside scoop”. So when the opportunity arose to join LexCheck in June this year, she “jumped at it’.
And it seems Natasha jumped just at the right time – Gartner has predicted that by 2022 companies will have an average of 35 AI projects in place.
Working in a team of six lawyers (which is set to expand), Natasha’s working day varies a lot. On a typical day, she logs in at 9am and takes a look at the client status dashboard checking for any legal action items. Every morning she also attends a cross functional “stand up” where status updates on deadlines, projects and priorities are shared and aligned on.
“Training the software” is also a core part of her role and her day – testing what the AI is doing right and wrong and how to improve it – based on the playbook and documents. “It’s a lot of fun and one of the favourite parts of my day. It’s a bit like a puzzle sometimes trying to work out how to make everything work in harmony”.
While quasi-legal in nature, it’s this intimate knowledge of the product and its supporting technologies which keeps her lawyering sharp, and able to problem solve for clients effectively. “The product has changed so much since I started [in June 2021] – it’s getting new features all of the time”.
She also loves the fact that her current work environment allows her to define her role; for example, Natasha is also the diversity and inclusion champion within LexCheck and assists with recruitment.
Talking at some length about machine learning and NLP (Natural Language Processing), Natasha points out machine learning requires a wealth of data and a lot of training in order for it to start being effective. Whereas you can train NLP software based on a smaller data set more efficiently. And this is precisely why LexCheck predominantly uses a range of NLP technologies, she says.
In Natasha’s mind, artificial intelligence has no bounds in helping lawyers with some of the more monotonous parts of their jobs. For that reason, and being “in it”, Natasha says that the power of AI is significant for lawyers – not to replace us, but to make more room for critical thinking, legal analyses and the exciting parts of the job.
This in a context where, according to the 2021 EY survey, 75% of General Counsels are having difficulty handling current workloads, and that workloads are set to increase by 25% over the next three years.
What does Natasha recommend to lawyers who are at the beginning of their AI journey, or who are AI hesitant: take a leap of faith, be open minded, and stay educated about the space – including training your own Google AI to send you exactly the news articles you need.
“[My role] is a really cool way to combine law and tech, and in hindsight it’s been one of the best decisions I’ve made”. “I’m incredibly happy”.
My conversation with Natasha about being an AI attorney reminds me of this Albert Einstein quote: Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere”.
Thanks for taking the time to read this post.
Stay positive and future focused.