decorative image

27/01/23-The Stories Behind The Legal Sector News

decorative image

Is AI coming for your job?

The artificially intelligent content-creation tool ChatGPT – the new kid on the AI block that everyone is currently talking about – has an uncanny ability to mimic human writing. So much so, in fact, that it is reportedly coming awfully close to acing some of the USA’s most prestigious academic and vocational tests, including the American Bar exam.

Launched in November last year, ChatGPT – short for ‘Chat Generative Pre-trained Transformer’ – was developed by OpenAI, a US-based artificial intelligence research laboratory funded by people including Elon Musk. In the very short time since its release, the chatbot has been the source of global media attention amidst fears that it might spell the death-knell for certain white-collar professions.

So how concerned should lawyers be about this latest development in the world of artificial intelligence? Is this the real-world equivalent of Skynet going live? You don’t need to go all Sarah Connor and hone your unarmed-combat skills just yet, according to experts including legal tech specialist Alex Su, who tweeted this week: “The fact that AI can come this close to passing the bar exam yet be so far from replacing lawyers says more about the bar exam than AI”. Ha!

I’m inclined to agree. It’s one thing for a machine to replicate or mimic answers on a formal exam, once it has been taught (by its human mentors) how to clear the necessary academic hurdles. It is quite another for AI – at least in our current conception of it – to replace all the dynamism, wit and intelligence of a living, breathing lawyer.

We’ve been asked to deliver a webinar on what this will mean for knowledge updates and we’ll share details on that as soon as the time and date is confirmed. Hint: You + AI = a quicker, more efficient result than just you or just AI. It’s going to be transformational, like computers were in the time of typewriters. But no good lawyer or challenging task is getting replaced any time soon.

Absolutely fabulous?

In an incident back in 2020 that came to be known as ‘vardie cardie gate’, Ayesha Vardag – founder of Vardags, the divorce boutique for the well-heeled – came under fire for a leaked e-mail in which she berated her lawyers for their choice of attire, reserving most of her ire for the wearing of cardigans or ‘winter woolies’. Her point, however badly made (Vardag also wrote that female lawyers should look ‘discreetly sexy’), was that the firm was charging clients hundreds of pounds an hour and that they had a right to see a smartly-dressed lawyer, and not a scruffbag.

Two years later, and Vardag has changed her tune – or has she? She has just introduced a new dress code that allows staff to ‘bring [their] personality to work’ – but only if the sartorial expression of said personality would pass muster at chichi private members’ club Annabel’s in Mayfair, London. That’s right: from telling her people to dress like smart professionals, Vardag has pivoted to basically expecting them to come to work looking like Patsy and Eddie. And I write these words whilst sitting here in my nice comfy hoodie – not something that would be likely to get me through the door at Annabel’s.

The Hot 100 2023

The Lawyer’s Hot 100 was published this week. A career highlight for many – congratulations!

We wrote a report on how the many LinkedIn posts about The Hot 100 performed. Take a look here.

Or read our press release about it here.

Or (if you have a subscription) read The Lawyer magazine’s Horizon about our findings here.

A right royal barney with Twitter

It’s been reported this week that the Crown Estate, which – as you might have guessed – is controlled by the Crown, is suing Elon Musk’s Twitter over the firm’s alleged failure to pay rent on its London HQ, which the estate owns (along with vast swathes of the West End).

Situated in Air Street in Piccadilly Circus, the office building used by Twitter as its London HQ since 2014 no longer features any of the social-media company’s branding, but is said by staff members to still be in use by Twitter employees.

Twitter has been much in the news of late after the firm was acquired for $44bn (£35bn) in late October last year by eccentric tech billionaire Elon Musk, who then promptly fired over half the firm’s employees. In addition to Twitter’s ongoing financial woes, with a reported 40% drop in daily revenue, the headlines have also often been prompted by Musk’s shenanigans since buying the company – these include banning from the platform journalists who have been critical of his conduct, and tweeting a picture of himself with two pranksters who pretended to be fired Twitter employees and ‘hilariously’ called themselves Ligma and Johnson.

It’s not clear how big the rent arrears are that Twitter allegedly owes the Crown Estate. We do know that the firm is also being sued for $3 million in unpaid rent on its San Francisco headquarters. What is clear is that, given all the other legal embroilments that Musk and Twitter are currently facing (see the next story below), this is neither the first nor the last court case to feature the tech company’s name on the docket.

No bluebird of happiness for Elon…

As mentioned above, Elon Musk’s woes seem to be multiplying in the wake of his acquisition of Twitter. He has been busy this week auctioning off the firm’s ‘surplus’ office assets, including a giant floor statue of the blue bird, the Twitter logo, which went for an unlikely-seeming figure of $100,000.

Cynics might say he needs the dosh to help pay the lawyers defending him in the myriad lawsuits lodged against Twitter since Musk’s October takeover: in addition to the case brought by the Crown estate over unpaid rent, Twitter is also being sued by ex-UK staff in a wrongful dismissal claim. This case is being brought by Winckworth Sherwood, who has accused Twitter of ‘unlawful, unfair and completely unacceptable treatment’ in a ‘sham redundancy process’.

And it’s not just the employment lawyers who are circling – Twitter might also soon be in the crosshairs of finance lawyers if the firm defaults on its $300m interest payments this week. There is talk of the firm being too overextended to pay its debts. It’s all enough to make you wonder whether the Twitter blue bird is proving to be something of an albatross around the neck of Elon Musk.

… but smiles for the rest of us

After all this serious talk about Twitter, it’s good to have a reminder of why we sometimes love the platform so much. The following tweet by @CourtReportCA made me and the team chuckle, and hopefully it will do the same for you:

‘BigLaw associate wins $37.86 reimbursement for adults charged as participants during “disappointing” laser tag kid’s party, but no damages awarded for “unpleasant argument about the principles of contract law” with the manager’

For the curious, the tweet even includes a link to the relevant court records:

Poll of the week

Owen Spencer, a senior associate at Forsters, has posted a poll on LinkedIn this week that caught our attention, and we’d like to help him out by drawing attention to it. He asks which is the most important to a corporate occupier when selecting new premises – location, price, quality or sustainability? If you have time, please head on over to his post and have your say.

The more we read that poll, the more in awe we are of it from a marketing perspective.

The news in brief

Journalists will be able report on family court hearings without prior permission

In an effort to increase transparency and public confidence in the UK legal system, a one-year pilot scheme giving journalists access to family court hearings without prior permission is due to launch In Leeds, Cardiff and Carlisle next week. The scheme also aims to highlight the devastating impact of cuts to legal aid, not least evidenced by the large numbers of people now having to represent themselves. Read more here.

Judge warns efforts to diversify judicial posts have failed

Lady Justice Simler, the chairwoman of the judicial diversity committee of the Judges’ Council, has tacitly acknowledged that attempts to tempt more black lawyers to judicial posts have been unsuccessful. Although there has been a steady increase in the appointment of judges with Asian backgrounds in England and Wales, the number of black judges has not changed during this period. Read more here.

Law-firm layoffs – what’s the real picture?

Redundancies in the legal sector have been much in the legal press of late, especially after Goodwin Procter’s initially bizarre-seeming move of firing dozens of lawyers and other staff, then hiring up to 40 lawyers for a new Philadelphia office, all since early January. This may be the way of the future, as law firms balance their staffing needs between declining and growing practice areas.

However, we might never really know how many people are currently losing their jobs in the industry, as legal tech firms in particular are reluctant to publicise these for fear of suffering financial consequences.

Dates for your diary

  • 31 January 2023 – The deadline for filing Self Assessment tax returns with HMRC
  • 31 January 2023  – What’s on the regulatory radar for 2023? – A Law Society seminar providing an overview of all the most recent regulatory changes, their implications for members, and how compliance professionals can best prepare for what is coming up in 2023.
  • 1 February 2023 – TLA Women in Tech 2023 – Pipeline to the Future – An event organised by SheCanCode and hosted by Shoosmiths law firm in London. An opportunity to learn about, and network with, women working in the tech sector.

Thanks for reading, I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s edition!

Si Marshall

Share now |

Explore our latest posts