Macfarlanes announces partnership with HarveyAI

UK law firm joins Allen & Overy and PwC in rolling out tool designed for legal work backed by OpenAI Startup Fund

Macfarlanes has become the latest law firm to announce a partnership with HarveyAI, an artificial intelligence startup backed by an OpenAI-managed investment fund. 

The move sees the firm join the likes of Allen & Overy (A&O) and PwC in partnering with Harvey, creator of a generative AI tool designed specifically for legal work. 

Luke Powell, managing partner at Macfarlanes, commented: ‘‘It is clear that generative AI will become widely integrated into the way that the legal sector supports its clients. Our partnership with Harvey demonstrates how we continue to progress our AI strategy, which has the potential to transform the way we provide solutions and services for our clients.”

Harvey is built on OpenAI and ChatGPT technology and uses natural language processing, machine learning and data analytics to automate tasks such as reviewing, analysing and summarising documents. Macfarlanes said the tool can answer general legal questions, as well as undertake drafting.

Macfarlanes has rolled out the tool after undertaking a pilot programme earlier in the summer that was carried out by around 70 fee earners and knowledge lawyers at the firm. The firm said all of Harvey’s outputs would “be carefully monitored and reviewed” by its lawyers.

Winston Weinberg, Harvey co-founder and president, said Macfarlanes had been “an invaluable collaborator” in testing and refining its platform, adding: “We look forward to working with them to unlock new possibilities and opportunities for their clients and lawyers.”

Harvey was founded at the start of last year and in November received a $5m investment in a funding round led by the OpenAI Startup Fund, according to Reuters. Earlier this year it raised $21m in a series A funding round to scale up its team that was led by Sequoia and again saw OpenAI’s Startup Fund participate. 

A&O announced in February that it had integrated Harvey into its global practice, saying that at the trial phase more than 3,500 of its lawyers had asked Harvey around 40,000 queries for their day-to-day client work. 

And in March PwC said it had partnered with Harvey, a move it said made it the only member of the Big Four to have access to the “game-changing AI platform” that would enable it to help clients streamline their in-house processes. 

Macfarlanes’ Harvey partnership comes as law firms grapple with the possibilities and risks of generative AI amid frenzied interest in the technology that was sparked by the release of OpenAI’s ChatGPT tool late last year. 

Weinberg, who was previously an associate at O’Melveny & Myers, told Reuters that the text-based learning and repetition involved in legal work made it a good match for technology like Harvey’s.

However, a recent report by LexisNexis pointed out that generative AI tools like ChatGPT can produce an output that is nonsensical or outright false – known as hallucination, which it noted is “a serious issue for a profession that prides itself on the accuracy of its outputs”. But it added that there are ways to mitigate the risk, such as through quality control by including a human in the loop.

Chris Tart-Robert, Macfarlanes’ head of lawtech and chief knowledge and innovation officer, said: “The potential for generative AI in law lies in augmentation; to support lawyers to do elements of their job better and smarter, benefiting users of legal services via improved efficiency and enhanced service. 

“We are excited to be at the forefront of this technology’s evolution, which has the potential to shift the paradigm. Partnering with Harvey provides a chance to be a part of the development of transformative AI.”

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