Demand for ‘AI lawyer’ has risen by 230% in the UK since last year, as discussions around the ethics of AI in legal practice dominate the industry.
Whilst AI platforms such as ChatGPT can be used to assist in sorting complex data, contract management and some legal research – widespread adoption of AI in legal practice still feels far away.
To ensure that Lawrence was able to support solicitors with real legal work for clients, Lawhive tasked him with completing and passing the SQE1 exam, the SRA’s exam solicitors must undertake in order to qualify.
The multiple choice exam usually requires a 55-65% pass rate, Lawrence passed with 74% of answers correct. With questions varying from contract law to criminal litigation, it was clear that Lawrence was able to learn, digest and offer considered responses to various legal situations.
Of the questions failed, Lawhive studied the responses to see if there was any common themes in where Lawrence struggled with the SQE. Whilst there was no clear themes that he struggled with, it was apparent that the questions he didn’t pass were more complicated regarding complex chains of logic and wider context. Lawrence also struggled when two concepts shared similarities, confusing public nuisance versus private nuisance for example.
Lawhive also conducted a research experiment with Lawrence, presenting the same client’s will and probate case to Lawrence and a human counterpart to compare its tone, empathy and legal knowledge.
Whilst Lawrence managed to steer the conversation with the client to gain the necessary information about the client’s late relative’s will and assets, the conversation remained largely transactional and of half the length of the human solicitor.
Feedback from the client was positive to both responses, but critiqued Lawrence for not showing as much empathy as the human counterpart. Lawrence also failed to question the client on their late relative’s spending habits and asked around a wider context that ultimately uncovered financial liabilities the solicitor would need to be aware of.
Flinn Dolman, Co-Founder and AI expert of Lawhive commented on Lawrence’s appointment, “We created Lawrence as a resource to support some of our legal experts at Lawhive. It was important to test Lawrence’s legal knowledge, and he managed to pass SQE1, demonstrating his functioning legal knowledge in line with the SRA’s expectations of junior solicitors.
The real practice of law goes beyond theoretical knowledge, but working closely with clients often in emotionally charged situations. We put Lawrence to the test and whilst his response was satisfactory in terms of exploration of the legal matter – it was no replacement for the empathy shown by one of our human solicitors.
At this time, it’s clear that AI will not be replacing the value that human connection provides in a solicitor and client experience – but using AI that’s equipped with theoretical legal knowledge allows our legal experts and solicitors to create efficiencies and seek support with more minor legal tasks as client relationship and outcome takes priority.
To ensure Lawrence returns value to the company, we intend on testing his response and skill to various situations and supporting our solicitors with legal tasks. We’ll be closely monitoring Lawrence’s progress, and asking for client feedback on their interactions with him as he supports casework.”