Harvey AI is the newest disruptive legal tech tool to make an appearance at top law firms. A generative AI system, it’s sort of like ChatGPT’s “lawyer” cousin. The creation of the technology was a collaboration between Gabriel Pereyra, a former scientist at DeepMind (one of Google’s AI projects) and Winston Weinberg, a former antitrust lawyer from O’Melveny & Myers.
The AI system was developed by OpenAI and started collaborating with Allen & Overy’s Market Innovation Group (MIG) in September 2022. The firm ran a test trial the following November, where lawyers asked the system legal questions and trialled drafting documents. Before long, Allen & Overy lawyers had asked it 40,000 questions, with one in four lawyers using the platform daily.
According to David Wakeling, the Head of MIG, it is clear that the technology will be “a game-changer”, especially as it already can work in several languages across different practice areas.
Harvey AI will mainly aid with “contract analysis, due diligence, litigation and regulatory compliance”, thereby saving lawyers precious time that would otherwise be spent manually editing documents or conducting legal research. According to Pereyra, this will allow lawyers to focus on producing higher quality work by acting as “an intermediary between tech and lawyer”.
Whilst the legal industry may worry that this means fewer jobs, certain legal academics take the contrary position. Professor Lilian Edwards stated that tasks such as license generation or contracts are not problematic for automation, as lawyers predominantly work on standardized templates. Furthermore, Harvey said the lawyers at Allen & Overy were instructed to “check everything” to ensure accuracy.
There is concern regarding “hallucinations”, which occur when generative AI systems invent facts or reply incorrectly. According to the founders of Harvey, it is reliable on issues of mainstream law but experiences difficulties in niche areas. The technology runs on extensive legal datasets, meaning it should have less hallucinations than other systems. Nonetheless, a human overview is indispensable for the time being, and even more so in the legal industry, where even small legal mistakes can lead to serious consequences for clients.
The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is currently one of the world’s most protective pieces of data privacy legislation. It is unclear if a system based on mass data scraping, like the rising generative AI tools, would be legal under it.
Currently, Harvey isn’t crossing data between clients, anonymizes user data and deletes it after a certain period of time. Users can also delete data on request. Furthermore, Allen & Overy did not use personal data to develop Harvey. Indeed, without the assurance of confidentiality and trust, clients would quickly lose confidence in a law firm.
Firms and tech companies will have to wait for the release of the EU’s AI Act to evaluate their regulatory positions.
“OpenAI-backed startup brings chatbot technology to first major law firm”, Reuters, Sara Merken, February 16, 2023
“Generative AI Is Coming for the Lawyers”, Wired, Chris Stokel-Walker, 21 February 2023
“A&O announces exclusive launch partnership with Harvey”, Allen & Overy website, 15 February 2023
“Harvey, which uses AI to answer legal questions, lands cash from OpenAI”, TechCrunch, Kyle Wiggers, November 23 2022
Did you know that until this year, child marriage was legal in the UK?
On 27th February, the age by which two individuals can marry in the UK was finally raised from 16 to 18 through the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Minimum Age) Act 2022.
Though the Act received Royal Assent in April 2022, it came into force only a few weeks ago.
Before the legislative change, individuals in the UK as young as 16 could be married with parental consent under the Marriage Act 1949. Whilst many of us could never dream of our parents giving their permission for us to be married at such a young age, for a minority of people, this was their reality.
In 2018, 148 individuals under 18 were married in England and Wales. At first glance, requiring parental consent to marry at 16 seems unproblematic. However, the 1949 Act created a legal loophole through which parents could force their children into marriage, often for money, religion, and culture.
The result? Young adults, typically women, were forced to grow up far too quickly and leave formal education, friends and family to marry a much older person in most cases.
The main reason behind this legal development was to help protect 16-17-olds who are vulnerable to forced marriage.
Whilst the effects of this new law are yet to be seen, Dominic Raab MP is hopeful that the changes will protect the vulnerable through the threat of imprisonment of up to 7 years, for example, meaning that those who seek to marry children will now “rightly face the full force of the law”.
Previously, “forced marriage was seen as where one or both people do not or cannot consent to marriage, and pressure or abuse is used to force them into the marriage.” This definition sought to protect individuals in precarious situations.
However, the fact that parental consent could be given for children aged 16 and 17 to get married meant that these children were often not protected. Thankfully, the change in law has indicated it is a criminal offence to exploit children by giving consent for them to marry under any circumstance, regardless of whether force is used.
Though not a gendered crime, young women are typically victims of forced marriage (in 2018, 75% of forced marriages involved female victims). The adverse effects of this cannot be overstated.
Usually, young people forced into marriages are susceptible to social isolation and domestic violence. It is also associated with “leaving school early, limited career opportunities, and serious physical and mental health problems”, as stated in Legal Age of Marriage in England and Wales Rises to 18, Gov.UK.
Therefore, criminalising the act of causing any child to marry will hopefully serve as a deterrent for anyone thinking of committing such acts.
The Marriage Act of 1949 previously allowed parents to give their consent for their child to marry, in turn legitimising child marriages. The enforcement of the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Minimum Age) Act 2022 will help protect children entering into any marriage, whether it be a “legal”, “religious”, or “cultural” ceremony.
There has been widespread condemnation from the West, through organisations including the UN and UNICEF, to end child marriage worldwide. When you look at advertisements and media calling for change surrounding this issue, statistics and depictions of the depths of lesser-off countries are usually at the forefront.
However, westernised countries also are susceptible to the same acts. We must remember that the UK has taken 74 years(!) to attempt to actively stamp out child marriage from its society through a well-overdue rectification of the legal loophole.
Keeping in line with the presumption that laws cannot be retrospectively applied, the new legislation will not affect the validity of marriages entered into prior to the passing of the Act (Section 8 of the 2022 Act). This means the unions of children between 16 and 17 with parental consent before the Act will remain valid.
Often family law firms deal with marriage breakdowns, especially for reasons such as physical/emotional abuse and coercive control. Increasing the age of marriage consent and criminalising all child marriages will hopefully allow those entering into marriage to make a better-informed decision on whom they marry, reducing the number of cases containing elements of abuse and control.
Hopefully, the legal protections now available for all people under-18 in the UK and the punishment for complicit parents will serve us in good stead to protect children’s rights in remaining just what they are; children.