City giant uses generative AI to develop lease reporting tool

Westcott: You still have to check everything

City law firm BCLP has used generative artificial intelligence (GenAI) to develop a lease reporting tool which is being rolled out to UK clients this month.

Jeff Westcott, global director of innovation and practice technology at the law firm, said lawyers still had to read leases and the FLARE (Fast Lease Assisted Reporting) tool was about “augmenting rather than replacing”.

BCLP and proptech firm Orbital Witness set up a partnership at the end of last year to use Orbital Copilot, a legal AI assistant purpose-built for property diligence, for commercial lease reporting.

Mr Westcott said FLARE was developed over the past two months by a team of five partners and 10 associates in the UK, who worked with legal engineers, data scientists and software engineers from Orbital Witness.

It would now be rolled out by all the UK firm’s real estate lawyers. In the US a team of 10 attorneys were working with Orbital Witness to develop their own reporting tool.

Mr Westcott said the testing process was “very different” from other kinds of AI, in that rather than a simple choice between right and wrong, there was greater uncertainty over outputs and how the GenAI had interpreted lease documents and clauses.

He said the lawyers responded with a lot of “back-to-back testing” using existing lease reports.

“We needed to understand how the AI did it and where it tripped up. Off the peg it was not performing at a high enough standard, but after two months we got it over the quality threshold.”

Mr Westcott went on: “You still have to check everything. AI is not infallible. Lawyers will still have to read the leases – you can’t outsource that. It’s about augmenting, rather than replacing.”

FLARE could produce “a really good first draft” of a lease report, with links and explanations of how it got there. “It’s almost like having a junior lawyer in the room with you, who can explain their conclusions.”

FLARE could also give lawyers the option of shorter answers, helping them produce a more personalised response for clients.

When developing the tool, he said the team aimed and achieved a 25% time saving. It depended on the type of lease and could be much greater than 25% for simpler ones.

“Clients have a short window to do a deal. The more time we can spend on higher-value work, the better. A saving of only one hour in a tight timescale could be useful.”

Clients were told about the technology’s use and Mr Westcott said the law firm was making it clear to them that accuracy was not compromised.

“We have been looking at areas where we can apply the tool without sacrificing accuracy and quality. The technology moves the starting point further down the line.

“We’re looking to create efficiencies around the entire process, to be more competitive. Our clients expect us to make every use of technology to complete transactions. We’re under constant pressure to keep bills as low as they can be.”

He added: “We need to reassure clients that we’re not using black boxes. We need to explain not just what we’re using but how it works and how we have control over it and can use it confidently and safely.”

Edmond Boulle, co-founder and chief strategy officer at Orbital Witness, said the law firm shared its belief in specific and targeted application of AI, with FLARE providing “time optimisations to their work, which are in turn enabling them to focus on providing world-class service and advice to their clients”.

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