A&O hires ‘Harvey’ chatbot to help lawyers

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ChatGPT-style tool can tackle contract analysis, due diligence and more

Magic Circle law firm Allen & Overy (A&O) has embraced a new ChatGPT-style tool to assist lawyers with various aspects of legal work.

The new platform, dubbed ‘Harvey’, is designed to increase efficiency by helping lawyers with tedious tasks such as contract analysis, due diligence, litigation and regulatory compliance.

Over 3,500 of A&O’s lawyers will have access to the new super-paralegal, which the firm says will enable them to create and access legal information with improved speed and quality across multiple offices and languages.

The tool uses a combination of natural language processing, machine learning and data analytics to automate and streamline the more formulaic aspects of legal work. The firm does stress, however, that all output is carefully reviewed and fact checked by lawyers.

City firms have been playing with AI-backed technologies for years but this is understood to be the first instance of its use in the Magic Circle.

A&O has a reputation for being a tech-savvy firm and was one of the first firms to launch an in-house own technology and innovation hub in 2017. The Fuse hub houses new tech start-ups free of charge within a specially designed area of the firm’s London office.

But those concerned about the rise of our robot overlords can be reassured, as the Magic Circle player says that Harvey will not replace any of its workforces or reduce billable hours.

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David Wakeling, head of the firm’s markets innovation group, commented:

“I have been at the forefront of legal tech for 15 years but I have never seen anything like Harvey. It is a game-changer that can unleash the power of generative AI to transform the legal industry. Harvey can work in multiple languages and across diverse practice areas, delivering unprecedented efficiency and intelligence. In our trial, we saw some amazing results.”

The start-up behind the tool, which is also called Harvey, received £5 million in seed funding from the OpenAI Startup Fund, an initiative run by the creators of the headline-grabbing ChatGTP tool. The firm first trialled the bot in November 2022, in a test led by a group of lawyers and developers tasked with “disrupting the legal industry”.

Wim Dejonghe, Senior Partner at A&O, said:

“This announcement marks a new era for A&O and the legal industry. Harvey AI is not just another platform, but a game-changer that will enable us to deliver unprecedented value, efficiency and innovation to our clients. We are proud to be the first law firm to partner with Harvey AI. We share their vision of using technology to enhance and transform legal services.”

News of A&O’s new bot follows a wave of interest in its relative, ChatGTP. One US professor claimed the bot should be taught to students as a legal research tool, while a top barrister voiced concerns that students using the tool during exams and assesments risk damaging degree credibility.

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Dispassionate Observer

Typical A&O. They spend a lot of money on PR puff pieces like this (as originally reported in the FT) and gimmicks like Fuse to push the idea that they’re ‘the world’s most advanced law firm’ (who knows how that’s measured).

The reality (from someone who’s worked there) is that A&O is just as arcane as any other law firm and no A&O lawyers will be using this or any other fancy legal tech on a regular basis.

More generally, they’re hemorrhaging a lot of money in the US on partners and associates who, let’s be charitable, are not top-tier. They’re spinning this as a huge win. ‘Look at our amazing revenue growth in the US!’ they say. Classic Magic Circle, always looking at revenue and never at profits. That’s why the US firms are eating your lunch.

Maybe A&O could raise salaries in London instead of having to deflect attention with ‘news’ like this?



Linklaters is in basically the same category with all that new practice innovation roles. They should spend the spare money on real lawyers doing real work. Now the firm is bleeding lawyers to US firms instead.


Ajay Devgan

Linklaters have lost 30% of the associates to elite US firms over the last 2-3 quarters, while the vacancies are being filled with second rate laterals who didn’t receive the same level of training as a MC associate.



Not just associates, also partners and practice heads



Case in point – another inane press statement by Links: “In line with the firm’s continued investment in innovation, we are delighted that Kris Sales joins the practice innovation team as an innovation product analyst.

Lawyers and clients from around the global continuously feed fantastic ideas into our Ideas Hub, we have a number of products in live development, and we continue to keep up the pace of proofs of concept and pilots.”



R&D is a massive tax loophole whereas paying staff isn’t unfortunately so expect more firms to pump money into these vanity projects



“massive tax loophole”? Can you explain how R&D fits in that category? Presumably A&O would be making use of the large company scheme which is nowhere near as generous as the small company scheme…



Actually the R&D tax regime will be more favourable for large companies from April than for start-ups with the tax changes. Be prepared for more “R&D” or “practice innovation” crap coming out of MC firms, particularly those two mentioned above



Freshfields used to put out nonsense like this every day. Then they realised clients actually don’t care about law firms pretending to be Apple and started paying its people properly. Now they are doing much better than A&O and Links.



Surprised by the choice of name given A&O’s history with Harveys…


US firm realist

While there is no doubt a place for AI in law firms, this entire statement is filled with jargon and buzzwords that have no real meaning.

Typical MC firm PR – “let’s try and convince clients that we’re cutting edge and this can be our competitive advantage in the market!”. One look at their doc management systems will give you the actual answer about how they view the importance of tech…

Breaking down the numbers, that is *very* few requests per lawyer across the beta trial period. If it was as marvellous as they claim, they would surely have far more requests per user?

Advice du jour: don’t be fooled by paid-for publicity.


Wurst eater

The time-honoured approach of a successful legal career is to train at A&O/Links and become a partner at K&E or other US firms. Training at any US firms is honestly not up to scratch and these US firm trained associates’ incompetence becomes more apparent as they rise through the rank. Most of the successful US firm partners did a stint at MC firms and that says a lot.



You might find that’s because MC firms churn out substantially more lawyers than US firms. Plus a lot of US firm associates probably already made enough by the time one makes partner normally



Adding onto that, US firms are only now starting to get very well established in the UK. I’m sure certain smaller firms will have worse training, but its difficult to imagine the larger intakes (L&W, K&E, Skadden etc) are substantially far behind. It doesn’t make sense from a business perspective to have trainees that end up useless post 3 PQE.


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