On Wednesday, February 15th, the magic circle firm announced that it will be using a new AI named Harvey, funded by OpenAI's start-up fund. Powered by the same technology as its breakout star, ChatGPT, Harvey is a "game-changer" according to his British users, "capable of unleashing the power of Generative AI and transforming the legal industry" once and for all. So, is it a mere change of the old guard or a legitimate industry revolution? The jury might still be out on this one, but signs of the final verdict are already starting to emerge.
Harvey - This name, having nothing to do with Harvey Specter, even though both work for a law firm - has quickly become a hot topic in many law firms. The famous long-awaited, long-dreaded AI, that was expected to transform the legal industry but never quite managed to do so, is finally here. Or so it seems.
But what IS Harvey?
Technically, Harvey is a chatbot developed using generative AI technology, enabling it to engage in natural language conversations and provide “spoken” responses sourced from its extensive dataset. Powered by OpenAI's sophisticated natural language processing technology, Harvey bears a striking resemblance to ChatGPT, which you may have used before.
From an operational standpoint, Harvey is capable of automating numerous tasks, including contract analysis, due diligence, litigation, and regulatory compliance. With access to a vast data pool, Harvey is also capable of providing targeted recommendations and projections (thanks to open data).
The young AI is evidently fluent in multiple languages, globetrotting through many jurisdictions, national as well as international (even though its actual scope remains a mystery), full-service in a wide variety of fields (ditto), and above all, constantly up-to-date.
While Harvey does not predict the future, it does include ongoing legal proceedings and "guarantees" ( insert as many quotation marks as possible) access to the latest legal knowledge, a valuable asset for a profession that is constantly concerned about keeping up with the ever-expanding and ever-changing legislation.
While it is possible to overstate the potential ways lawyers can use Harvey (although none of them has been verified), the breakthrough it represents lies elsewhere. In an interview with Paperjam, Baptiste Aubry, Head of Financial Services Regulation at A&O Luxembourg, said that Harvey "demonstrates a genuine juridical logic".
At first glance, this expression may seem insignificant, or even meaningless. However, it succinctly encapsulates the power of generative AI compared to previous technologies: its ability to transcend mere imitation. In other words, a technology whose creative force is not limited to mimicking a particular type of content within a specific formalism but is instead capable of engaging in legal reasoning and providing a strategy or recommendation that is both contextualized to the initial request and compliant with its application framework. Instead of offering pre-packaged solutions, Harvey provides its users with food for thought.
A mature revolution?
Harvey's answers (still?) need careful review by a lawyer: a safeguard that the British firm has emphasized in its communication. No, it is not intended to replace lawyers. Instead, the image used to define Harvey leans more towards that of a sparring partner, akin to a Jiminy Cricket for lawyers. Harvey challenges their reasoning, optimizes their research time, and confirms or refutes their choices based on the wealth of data that its impressive intelligence covers.
But if this revolution has indeed begun, where is it now? For the time being, on the computers of the 3,500 Allen & Overy lawyers worldwide and on the "lips" of everyone in the legal industry.
The technology used may be intriguing, but it is the launch communication that commands respect. Rarely has an announcement caught so many off guard, and rarely has its content been so compelling. "I've been at the forefront of legal technology for 15 years, but I've never seen anything like Harvey." This quote from David Wakeling, Head of the Markets Innovation Group at Allen & Overy, resonated in newsrooms worldwide. Despite the caveats, including the thorny issues of privacy and cybersecurity, all observers agree that, while they haven't seen much of what Harvey can do yet, they have certainly never seen anything like it.