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Why the Allen & Overy Rollout of Harvey is Such a Big Deal
This ain't your grandpappy's law firm innovation press release
Hey there (and welcome to the 52 newcomers), I’m Zach Abramowitz and I’m Legally Disrupted. It’s Friday — you made it. Very serious studies show that people are able to better relax on the weekend if they’ve first microdosed on legal disruption, so let me help you get your weekend started right.
Earlier this week, I wrote about Allen & Overy’s rollout of Harvey.ai, the startup backed by OpenAI, the creators of ChatGPT. I said it was a big deal when it happened. 48 hours later, I’ve had time to calm down and take a cold shower and I’m now ready to revise my original assessment. It’s even bigger than I thought.
I wasn’t the only one.
Check out the reach on this tweet. This Twitter account isn’t a legal or even a #legaltech account. What’s going on in legal is big news to everyone. And it should be. As I told Caroline Hill of LegalIT Insider
I often make fun of law firm press releases, but this one is an exception.
It’s true, I’m a sarcastic bastard.1 Why am I not sarcastic about this announcement? Why do I think it’s a big deal?
First, the numbers. Andrew Arruda, founder of ROSS Intelligence, pointed this out on Twitter: this is a huge rollout.
It’s not usually like that. Andrew would know this because he was the KING of getting law firms to do press releases talking about how they were embracing innovation by adopting ROSS. But, typically, when a law firms does a bullshit press release about some new tech they’re using, they roll it out to a subdivision a practice group, if that. Sometimes, they’re just doing a proof of concept. They’re NEVER specific with numbers and it’s never to 3500 lawyers.
You know what else they don’t do? GUSH about the technology. Which brings me to point #2: the language of the release. Look at the language here from David Wakeling, “I have never seen anything like Harvey.” Keep in mind, according to Caroline Hill, they’ve only been experimenting with Harvey since November! And until November, no one had even heard of Harvey. I still can’t get on their fucking beta list. What the fuck Harvey founders? You win: you’ve made this list feel super exclusive club, now pretty please let me in.
Point #3: other firms are scrambling. According to Hill’s report, Quinn Emmanuel and others are already in demos with Harvey I’ve got to imagine O’Melveny is as well (it’s where one of the Harvey founders worked). I know how law firms work, I’m willing to bet my entire business that this has been a topic of conversation inside other firms, and they are now moving fast to catch up. This could be tricky because there’s not enough compute power out there to run LLMs for every single big law firm at once. But here’s a little insider info for you: there are more Harveys coming.
#4 and final point: this time it’s all about legal.
Quick: what other businesses besides Microsoft and Google can you think of without Binging it (see what I did there?) have made this big a move or even this big an announcement since the ChatGPT craze hit? You can’t think of any can you? As I noted above about the @AI_Pub tweet, the change that’s bound to happen in legal and that is developing in real time is of interest to everyone, not just lawyers. Our profession is so clearly going to be impacted because AI that can read, understand, analyze and produce responsive documents really feels a lot like an actual human lawyer. And when you can create a human lawyer at scale, the possibilities are scary. Like Wakeling said, “We saw amazing results.” That’s why law firms are going to be some of the first companies to embrace generative AI.
There will be plenty of discussion about security and client confidentiality and best practices for rollout, but ultimately these are going to be background noise. The genie is out of the bottle and now every Jafar — I mean law firm — is in the market for a genie. Now, what could convince me that I’m wrong? Allen & Overy attorneys getting in touch with me (off the record is fine) and telling me that I’ve got this story wrong and that the rollout is not nearly as serious as the press release would lead me to believe. If you are an Allen & Overy employee (and I know some of you subscribe to this newsletter), get in touch with me email@example.com. If you’re not at Allen & Overy, go ahead and hit the subscribe button below.
Scared about the impending AI revolution and what it means for our profession: I’ve got some good news: you have been legally disrupted — you will now fully enjoy the weekend!
My friend Whitney Stefko Dover from Polinate Legal encouraged me to take a personality test a couple of years ago. It was like a torturous shiatzu massage (so thanks Whitney!). The fact that I’m sarcastic was one of the revelations.