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Legal Teams Navigate the AI Landscape: Advisory and Education in Focus

Harnessing AI: A Balancing Act for Legal Teams

The AI revolution in companies like Instacart offers fascinating insights into how in-house legal teams are navigating the uncharted waters of AI, particularly generative AI.

At Instacart’s recent annual hackathon, employees turned their innovative ideas into potential implementation strategies for the company, and AI played a significant role. With tools like ChatGPT readily available to assist, Instacart’s legal team ensured the event had a robust AI usage policy.

“We wanted to make sure we had some fundamental guardrails” said Morgan Fong, General Counsel for Instacart.

AI: A Catalyst for Advisory Roles

Fong’s experience, shared during an Ironclad webinar, highlights how AI advancements are offering in-house legal teams a range of advisory and educational opportunities.

Instacart’s proactive leadership in AI application led to the formation of an AI advisory group, consisting of IT, commercial, and privacy team members. This group convenes weekly to align strategies and ensure consistent advice to the business, said Fong.

Navigating AI Principles and Regulations

In organizations like Standard Chartered, the legal department plays a crucial role in a council dedicated to responsible AI use. Helen Clerkin, a legal executive at the bank, mentioned the challenges of adhering to the AI usage principles laid down by regulators in regions like Asia, given the highly regulated nature of their industry.

She noted the upcoming formal regulation in the European Union and warned about the potential difficulties in complying with the disparate regulations across jurisdictions. “There’s going to be a lot of work for the legal function going forward as we try and navigate that” Clerkin noted during the webinar which was moderated by Mary O’Carroll, Ironclad’s Chief Community Officer.

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Educating the AI Users

AI education is another significant domain where legal teams are crucial, according to Shelley McKinley, Chief Legal Officer at GitHub. GitHub’s Copilot, an AI-powered tool assisting developers, has faced restrictions from companies due to AI fears and misunderstandings. Apple, for example, has reportedly curbed the internal use of GitHub Copilot and ChatGPT over data privacy concerns.

Whenever faced with Copilot restrictions, McKinley has taken a proactive approach, educating GitHub’s customers about the product, explaining its capabilities and limitations, and advising them on how to establish checks and balances when using AI technology.

Her efforts have resulted in customers feeling more at ease about GitHub’s product. “I’ve had pretty much a 100% success rate when we’re able to get on the phone and really help people understand” she shared.

McKinley emphasized the need for lawyers to understand the technology far better than before, regardless of the industry. She believes her experiences discussing AI with customers are universally applicable, marking a new era where legal teams engage in both advisory and educational roles in AI application.

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