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Lawyers get AI help from Thomson Reuters

Lawyers have to deal with a lot of paperwork. But generative AI may be able to help them cut some of that work down. Thomson Reuters CEO and President Steve Hasker joins Yahoo Finance Live to discuss his company's latest offering to help the legal field.

Video Transcript

- Meanwhile, a federal judge in Texas is requiring any AI generated content filed by a lawyer that has to be checked by a human. His reasoning, AI platforms are prone to, quote, "hallucinations and bias, and make no oath to uphold the law." This, as a New York lawyer faces potential sanctions after a ChatGPT generated brief he filed cited six bogus court cases.

AI leaders have warned about the widely hyped, but potentially harmful AI tech, calling for more regulation. Thomson Reuters recently launched a feature with Microsoft Copilot, enabling generative AI to assist lawyers with drafting legal documents. The CEO and President of Thomson Reuters Steve Hasker joins us now. Steve, so let's get right into this. First, thank you so much for joining us. Let's get right into this new business of yours. Tell us the plan for this.

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STEVE HASKER: So I mean, I think it's pretty obvious to everyone that lawyers work around documents. They're central to a lawyer's professional life, and a lot of that activity occurs in Microsoft Word. So with that, we announced-- or Microsoft announced with us last week at their build conference the idea that a lawyer can go into Microsoft Word and can use a large language model, so an AI model, to autogenerate the first version of a contract.

But to the point you just made about making sure that the content is accurate and the importance of ensuring that the content is accurate, what we've basically done with Microsoft is allow our primary products and our expertise and content to run in the background of that content generation process. So automatically, Westlaw, Practical Law, and our DocIntel, software runs checks on the content that's produced by that model and allows an attorney to, in real-time, make the edits and ensure that draft contract is perfectly accurate and ready for prime time.

BRAD SMITH: And so even in that content production, Steve, you mentioned the example of drawing up contracts, based on perhaps some of the template or standard operating contracts may have looked like in the past and pulling on the expansive database that you have at Thomson Reuters.

But are there other areas of law practices where you would advise clients to say, you know what, this might not be as applicable or this might take you more time to go through and make sure that it's actually putting together-- that the AI tool is putting together the correct usage and legal terminology and pulling in the direct references that are actually appropriate for what is being looked to be produced and churned out?

STEVE HASKER: Look, absolutely, Brad. In our view there are very few legal tasks, whether it's a litigation matter or a transaction. Almost very few legal tasks where an attorney can rely entirely on an AI model to produce a piece of content. It needs to be checked. It needs to be checked against the federal law, the state-by-state laws. And the terminology needs to be best practice. And that's where our software and our content and expertise can be overlaid on the content that's produced by a generative AI model to great effect, and to ensure the accuracy that's needed.

BRAD SMITH: So what does that mean in terms of now the jobs that you think about and consider? For the number of people that are going to be infusing this within their operation, how does this change the role or the job task that a lot of law firms might have to reconsider there?

STEVE HASKER: Well, the Copilot partnership that we announced with Microsoft last week, I think, enables a lawyer to do in seconds what previously may have taken hours to do. And so you may say, well, that's going to reduce the number of paralegals or the number of junior attorneys that are required.

But I think if you take a step back from the legal profession, particularly through the pandemic and over the last couple of years, there's a growing sentiment from young lawyers, that they don't like the grind work. They don't want to do the hours and hours--

BRAD SMITH: Nobody does, Steve. It takes a lot--

STEVE HASKER: Well, I'm with them. I'm with them. And so I think our view of this is it will enable lawyers, no matter what their tenure, to get to the fun stuff, to get to the more interesting problem-solving, to get to the work that adds value to their clients. And we think that's a really healthy step forward for the profession.

- Steve, they may not like the grind, but they do still have to build the hours. I mean, that would certainly reduce the billable hours, which I guess clients would be a fan of. I don't know if the firms would be as much of a fan of that. And I do wonder, I know that you said, the question that had popped in my mind was, does this kill paralegal jobs? I guess it sounds like they would still be a part of the equation?

BRAD SMITH: I think they will. I mean, there's always going to be a role for the expert to weigh in and edit and to correct, and to apply judgment, to apply nuance. And so I think we're very comfortable that will continue to be required in the profession.

- And Steve, one more question that's just in terms of this as a part of your business. Now, I'm a Reuters alum. I worked there back between '06 and '09 actually when it was Reuters, and then it became Thomson Reuters. How big a part of your business is this going to be?

STEVE HASKER: So our legal practice-- so we have sort of three professionals. We serve lawyers, we serve tax and accounting professionals, and we serve risk and compliance professionals. And in addition to that, we're the world's largest news agency of which you're an alum.

And so our legal practice is about 40% to 45% of our business. And we think that the combination of our unique content, 4,500 AI and data science specialists with about 1,700 attorney editors and lawyers, I think it's a very powerful combination to put that expertise in content together with generative AI. And basically, to help improve the profession, the legal profession and, in turn, tax accounting and risk and compliance.

BRAD SMITH: A huge partnership between you and Microsoft. Steve, thanks so much for taking the time here today. We'll see how this continues to improve productivity with the additive of AI CEO and President of Thomson Reuters Steve Hasker. Thanks for taking the time.