“My dear, here we must run as fast as we can, just to stay in place. And if you wish to go anywhere you must run twice as fast as that.” 

The Queen of Hearts in Lewis Carroll’sAlice in Wonderland

I have written before about the uncertainty many lawyers and legal professionals in small and mid-size law firms have when it comes to Gen AI . When I looked at this issue a couple of months ago, I said, Most of the lawyers I talked to…had not adopted Gen AI tools. Most had little familiarity with what it could do, how it works, and how they could be affected by it. Most of them were genuinely frightened about using Gen AI, a fear fed by the publicity of hallucinations and lawyers being sanctioned for citing cases that didn’t exist that Chat GPT provided. “

But like so many things associated with Gen AI, this reluctance may be about to change for a couple of reasons.

Apple Intelligence: AI For The Rest of Us

Apple held its annual World Wide Development Conference (WWDC) this past week. One of the big things announced was the concept of Apple Intelligence. I have to admit, when I first heard the term, I thought it was a little hokey. AI for Apple doesn’t mean artificial intelligence. It means Apple intelligence. But like my good friend Brett Burney mentioned in his weekly In The News podcast with Jeff Richardson, the more I thought about it, the more I became convinced that there was really something to what Apple was doing.

First and perhaps foremost, most of what the Apple AI will do will be on your device. Your iPhone, your iPad, your Mac. That means nothing will go to the cloud. No one can see what you ask or what the response is. This is huge for us lawyers, who are worried about privacy and confidentiality. Apple Intelligence will be a completely private system. 

So when Apple talks about having the system help you draft emails or summarize documents, the system will only look at what is on your phone. It won’t go elsewhere unless you give it express permission to use another system like ChatGPT to help answer. And even then, Apple says ChatGPT will not use your information or know who you are.

As Ian O’Flaherty, CEO of LitSoftware puts it, “One of the most exciting aspects is Apple’s emphasis on privacy. With Apple Intelligence, the ability to perform complex tasks on-device ensures that legal clients’ sensitive information does not become a source for large language models. This is a significant advantage for legal professionals who are rightly concerned about confidentiality and data security.” LitSoftware makes products for use on IPads and O’Flaherty closely follows Apple developments.

O’Flaherty also believes the “added ability to utilize ChatGPT if necessary, with Apple asking the user before any information is shared, sets it apart from other models.”

Of course, this doesn’t mean all the responses are 100% accurate or hallucination free. But it does mean a lawyer can use Apple Intelligence with the assurance that the client’s privacy is protected. Apple’s commitment to privacy and protection of confidentiality is well known. Of any vendor, when Apple says your privacy will be protected, you likely have the best assurance you can get.

What does this mean practically? Load your depositions on your Mac or iPad and then ask about content. Ask Apple Intelligence to summarize a deposition for you. Ask it to search through documents. Ask it to draft a motion based on other motions already on your iPad. You can ask the kinds of queries a lawyer would only feel comfortable asking a closed and expensive system. And at least for some period of time, Apple intelligence will be free.

Many of us are used to and feel very comfortable using Apple products.

There is another reason Apple Intelligence is important. It’s the ubiquitous use of Apple devices. More lawyers use iPhones than almost any other system. Lawyers, particularly litigators, are significant users of iPads as well. Many of us are used to and feel very comfortable using Apple products. When Apple introduces a new tool, like fancy cameras or Apple Pay, most of us get used to using them pretty quickly. We soon forget what it was like not to have these conveniences.

My prediction is the same for Apple intelligence. We will quickly get used to asking it to revise or create an email or summarize a document. Once we feel comfortable using Apple Intelligence for personal purposes, we will see how it will make our work easier as well. As Apple puts it, Apple Intelligence is AI for the rest of us. O’Flaherty beleives that the new Apple advancement will enhance the capabilities of his company’s products and that apps will become even more helpful and intuitive. All of this means I think that there will be ever growing uses.

Richard Tromans of The Artificial Lawyer once said it’s not a game-changer until the game is changed. Once it’s up and running, Apple Intelligence may be that game changer for lawyers and the use of artificial intelligence.

Necessity Is the Mother of Invention

There is another reason the perception of lawyers in small and mid-size have of Gen AI may be about to change. I talk to lots of lawyers, given my various roles and connections. Most of these lawyers are in small to mid-size firms. Most of them are litigators, generally on the defense side.

When you ask them about the challenges their firms are facing, the almost universal refrain is that they can’t find qualified associates and paralegals. These firms can’t afford to pay the salaries Big Law is offering. And the talent pool that they used to be able to tap into is no longer there for whatever reason. So they can’t find people to do the work that needs to be done.

Lawyers in these firms are overworked and over stressed.

Lawyers in these firms are overworked and over stressed. They are desperate for solutions as courts keep pushing cases to trial to overcome the Covid backlog. There is also no shortage of new matters. Add to this the specter of “nuclear verdicts” in almost any case, rate pressures and inflation, and you get an idea why they are desperate.

They say necessity is the mother of invention. Lawyers may, by necessity, turn to AI and Gen AI tools just to get them through the day and continue to practice at a high level. To get the work done that associates and legal professionals once did. Correspondingly, these tools may force lawyers in these firms to examine their business model. It could result in them billing for their work differently. It may not end the billable hour, but it could result in some work being done on a flat fee basis. 

And with Apple Intelligence making the use of Gen AI easier and safer, lawyers could be even more comfortable with using AI tools.

The Proverbial Tipping Point

Granted, Apple Intelligence will not be generally available till the fall, at the earliest. And it will only work with newer Apple devices. But still, putting the above developments together, many lawyers and law firms may soon be at the proverbial tipping point for the use of Gen AI in their day to day work.

That doesn’t mean they won’t be practicing law. It does mean they can work smarter instead of harder. Unlike the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland, they may discover a way to run twice as fast as they could before.

Photo Attribution: Photo by Priscilla Du Preez 🇨🇦 on Unsplash