ChatGPT: Law, Legal Advice and Other Integrity Challenges
20 March 2023

At the start of March, Microsoft announced it was eliminating its ethics and society team. At one time that team had roughly 30 employee and worked on matters such as the risks caused by Microsoft’s adoption of GPT throughout Microsoft’s suite of products. Now the team is no more.

Last week OpenAI released its much awaited GPT 4. As expected, the source code of this version will not be publicly available (like with GPT 3 and ChatGPT,but unlike with GPT 1 and GPT 2, which were open sourced).

Of even greater concern, though, is that OpenAI is not providing any details of just what data was used to train GPT 4 or even the size of the training data set. Without these details we cannot know the extent to which GPT 4’s functionality may be affected by biases or other issues in its t raining set. The result is that GPT 4 is even more of an unknown black box than was its predecessor.

There are serious ethical issues to be discussed concerning large language models,including GPT and ChatGPT. These include the uses which the models make of the content used to train them, the uses made of the instructions given to them by users and the extent to which their output may be incorrect or even harmful due to deficiencies in their training data.  Maybe Microsoft and OpenAI are on top of these issues despite disbanding their ethics team and keeping the most fundamental information about GPT4 under wraps, respectively  But how can we know?

As an artificial intelligence company itself, ContractProbe firmly believes that the AI industry has to take the lead in ensuring its products are used ethically. If the industry does not do so then the regulators will step in and do the job for us. The result is unlikely to be a happy one for those that do work in this field. The launch last week by Australia’s Industry and Science Minster, Ed Husic, of a“responsible artificial intelligence network” is an encouraging sign that the Australian Government recognises the importance of the issue.

Against this background, a discussion being hosted by The Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Digital Ethics on 5 April is very timely. The function will discuss “ChatGPT: Law, legal advice and other integrity challenges”. I am looking forward to presenting at that function along with Professors Julie Clarke (Melbourne Law School)and Julian Webb (Melbourne Law School) and Kendra Fouracre (King &Wood Mallesons).  

These are important issues and we need as many of us who work in this area as possible to get involved in the discussion so that the debate is as fully informed as possible.  Register at #aiethics

Please note the recording of the event is now available and can be watched here:

Beware the ChatGPT Hype
30 January 2023

ChatGPT went right up the hype curve over the Xmas break, with all sorts of reports being bandied about of its potential to change all our lives dramatically, including the practice of law.

It is clearly impressive technology. Sometimes it does give the right answer to a legal question. At other times, though, it gives an elegant answer that is totally wrong. The technology's inability to decide when a question is beyond its scope means that it is a while off challenging lawyers for their role in dispensing legal advice to their clients.

And in terms of the gloom mongers who are seeing ChatGPT as the beginning of the end of the legal profession, practising lawyers do a lot more than simply providing advice in response to the questions asked by their clients. Amongst other things, practising lawyers:
·      apply commercial judgment,
·      give advice that is relevant to the client’s full circumstances, and
·      even suggest at times that the client is asking the wrong question entirely.

It will be a long while before ChatGPT can give that sort of professional service, if ever.That is not to say that there is no role for large language models, such as ChatGPT in legal practice. There are many possible use cases for it in the legal domain, such as paraphrasing legal documents and advice into plain English. But the use case has to be carefully tailored to what the technology can reliably deliver.

From ContractProbe’s perspective as a legal technology provider, we do not need yet another case of hype causing unrealistic expectations, that then make users sceptical about the legal technology space as a whole.

NDAs do not need to be reviewed!
29 November 2022

Until, that is, you need to enforce the NDA in Court.

The Judge might decide that the NDA does not give you the protection that you had optimistically thought it would. Such was the fate of the plaintiff in the recent case of One Stop Warehouse Pty Ltd v Zhang, concerning the protection of price lists.

The relevant definition was along the lines of “Confidential Information” means all confidential information including but not limited to: [and then followed a list of specific types of information, including price lists].

A conventional enough definition, you might think. However the Judge found that the defined term Confidential Information covered no more than whatever would be confidential at general law. The reference in the definition to “confidential information” meant that the specific matters listed were not protected unless they would be protected at common law. The price lists would not generally be regarded as confidential and so were not protected by the NDA.

A salutary warning for companies that have adopted a policy of not reviewing NDAs. If the relevant subject matter is worth the trouble of having a NDA, shouldn’t it be worth the trouble of ensuring the NDA will be enforceable if needed?

This is the type of problem that would have been identified by running the draft NDA through  Can you afford to be not using @ContractProbe?

The Optus Data Breach –Would your Cloud Computing Contracts pass Muster?
27 September 2022

The details of the hack are certainly dramatic. According to news reports, the personal data of 9.8 million current and former Optus customers have been compromised. The purported hacker was at one stage demanding $1,000,000 by way of ransom and class action lawyers are already circling.

There are some lessons already to be learned. From a privacy law point of view, it is essential that companies holding personal information do so for no longer than necessary and delete it once their legitimate purposes has been satisfied: see Privacy Act, APP 11.2. Was it really necessary for Optus to hold Medicare numbers of their existing customers, let alone former customers, as reported? No doubt these and other privacy law issues will be explored in any legal proceedings that are pursued.

Optus's resellers will also now be nervously considering their own potential exposure for customers that they brought onto the Optus network and trying to get accurate information from Optus so they can assess their own position. Unfortunately, when data breaches occur, everyone typically adopts a very risk adverse posture and will only disclose the minimum amount of information they legally must. The question for resellers will be whether their contracts do in fact require Optus to provide the reseller with all relevant information as quickly as possible.

To allow you to manage your risk if a data breach occurs, any contract (such as a cloud computing contract) that involves you handing over personal information, whether your own or your customers, should include (at a minimum) clauses that require the recipient:
·      to notify you immediately when they suspect there has been a data breach; and
·      to provide you with all relevant information relating to the breach; and
·      to keep you informed about the progress of dealing with the breach.

Failure to include such a provision in your contracts could itself be a breach of the Privacy Act, APP 11.1.This is the type of issue that ContractProbe could alert you to when signing contracts where personal information is to be disclosed.

ALTA Hour of Power Presentation: How To Draft a Response to a Tender in a couple of minutes.
28 April 2022

This presentation demonstrates the ContractProbe’s ability to draft a response to the legal terms in a tender in a couple of minutes using a recent RFT issued by the Commonwealth as an example.

LinkedIn Post: What price a word? How does $70,000,000 sound?

13 April 2022

IBM recently lost a case in England arising out of a failed IT system supply contract for its customer CIS General Insurance Limited ("CISGIL"). The facts are long and tedious. However, the decision came down to an analysis of the exclusion clause in the contract.

On CISGIL's view of the clause, it was entitled to £96 million in damages. On IBM's view, the amount due could be no more than £16 million. A difference of approximately $140,000,000.

The relevant exclusion of liability clause prevented CISGIL from claiming for lost profits. However, CISGIL based its claim on "wasted expenditure" instead. IBM argued that the claim for wasted expenditure was excluded by the lost profits exclusion.
The trial Judge agreed with IBM. The UK Court of Appeal last month agreed with CISGIL and held that to exclude wasted expenditure in this context those words should have been used expressly. They were not and so IBM was liable for an extra£80 million damage, or approximately $70,000,000 for each of the two words omitted. IBM has indicated that it might appeal the decision. Watch this space!

Australian law on the interpretation of exclusion clauses is slightly different to the UK law in this area. However, whatever those differences might mean in other circumstances, one thing is for certain. A supplier under an IT services contract (or any other contract, for that matter) should always think carefully about what type of damage the customer might suffer if things go badly, and ensure those losses are dealt with expressly in the relevant exclusion clause. Suppliers should never have to rely on vague terms such as "indirect or consequential loss" in order to protect their interests.

In this case IBM's exposure would have been much reduced if only they had added the words "wasted expenditure" in their supply contract. This is the type of omission that ContractProbe will detect in under a minute.

The question is no longer whether you can afford to use ContractProbe in your business, but whether you can afford not to use it.

Webcast: Reduce Risk and Drudgery? Sounds good to me!

30 March 2022

Law Society of NSW FLIP Tech Tools Presentation: See how ContractProbe can help lawyers to decrease risk when reviewing contracts, as well as increasing their productivity and reducing drudgery by performing essential checks in under 60 seconds.

Webinar: Deep Dive on the Defence Contract Terms

29 March 2022

In this webinar Michael Pattison from ContractProbe discusses the tricks and traps in the terms. He demonstrates how AI can help streamline preparing the contractual response to a Request For Tender.

Webcast: CLIs Legaltech Around The World Series

21 February 2022

“Michael Pattison presented at a session organised by Centre for Legal Innovation on What's trending, What's driving legaltech development around the world.

Video below:

LinkedIn Post: The gig’s up for contracts in the Gig Economy

15 February 2022

Many companies operating in the gig economy engage their staff as contractors to avoid the costs associated with employment. A common practice is to use the word ‘contractor’liberally in such contracts and rely on that to avoid an employment relationship. That will no longer work following a High Court decision last week. The decision affects companies in the gig economy but also any other company wanting to engage staff as contractors, rather than employees, in Australia.

Under the High Court decision, companies need to look closely at the words of their contracts to decide whether they create an employment relationship, no matter what terms the parties used to describe that relationship.

Time to check if your engagement contracts are fit for purpose? Machine learning tools such as ContractProbe can help companies and their lawyers work out whether their contracts are properly engaging their staff. Contact us to find out how.

ALTA Hour of Power Presentation: How ContractProbe Can Be Tailored For A Customer’s Requirements

30 September 2021

This popular presentation demonstrated ContractProbe's flexibility in dealing with unique requirements from customers.

Video below:

ALTA Hour of Power Presentation: Demonstration of ContractProbe’s Word Add-In Feature

29 April 2021

Our Microsoft Word tool was demonstrated at the Australian Legal Technology Association's Hour of Power. The video can be viewed here:

Webinar: Deep Dive on the Commonwealth Contract Terms

24 March 2021

Watch as our founder, Michael Pattison, uses ContractProbe to dissect the new Commonwealth Contract terms commonly used by the Federal Government. The full video is available here:

Valuable Lesson from Optimum Productions

11 December 2019

A few months ago, Michael Jackson's former producer, Optimum Productions, sued HBO for airing Leaving Neverland, which Optimum alleged breached their 1992 licensing agreement preventing HBO from making "disparaging remarks concerning" Jackson. As the agreement did not contain an exclusive jurisdiction clause, the parties have spent months (and no doubt huge amounts of legal fees) litigating whether the dispute had to go to arbitration.  Sometimes you will want a Court or arbitrator to have exclusive jurisdiction.  Sometimes you will want non-exclusive jurisdiction.  However, you should never leave this important issue unclear.You can make sure your contract does not miss important issues like this by running them through ContractProbe before they are signed and saving your company millions in avoidable litigation costs within seconds!

No more Arbitration in LA: The Dangers of Skipping Contract Review

06 June 2019

The choice of law and choice of forum clauses are often tucked away in the part of the contract that no one ever reads.  But they can matter, a lot.  Ask Kanye West.  In January this year, he sued EMI over his 2003 recording contract, claiming it was no longer valid under a California law limiting the term of contracts for ‘personal services’. EMI counter-sued for breach of contract, claiming that West’s choice to file in California was a ‘flagrant attempt to forum shop his way around the exclusive New York forum selection clause’. If West had used ContractProbe before he signed on the dotted line he would have been told about the exclusive jurisdiction clause while he still had an opportunity to get it changed.

Victorian Society for Computers and the Law Panel on New Australian Encryption Laws

18 March 2019

Australia has recently passed laws that are intended to make it easier for security and police authorities to gain access to encrypted messages.  ContractProbe founder Michael Pattison was pleased to participate in a forum last night to discuss their impact.  Great to have input from both legal and technical people at the event; it made for a much more informed discussion. In short, the laws are draconian in approach but might not achieve the aims the Government intended.The full discussion can be viewed for a limited time here.

Signing a Contract without a Jurisdiction Provision can be a Costly Mistake

26 February 2019

Contracts with a choice of law clause but no jurisdiction provision are surprisingly common. In the recent case of Abdou v Mahany (2019), an action to regain legal fees was moved from Wisconsin to New York against the plaintiff's preference. The plaintiff's argument that the relevant choice of law clause was "tantamount" to a choice of forum clause was quickly and clearly dismissed. You can make sure that your contracts include BOTH these important matters by using ContractProbe to check your contracts before they are signed.

An Important Message to all Sole Traders and Contractors

26 January 2019

Watch out what contracts you or your clients sign. Don`t include "Unfair terms". "Sole traders" are actually in the scope of the Australian Consumer Laws. So your "Standard-form contracts" must be compliant with the unfair contract terms regime.In other words, watch out: the consumer laws give enforcement powers to both parties the ability to issue and seek orders requiring a supplier to provide redress. Scan your Consulting Contracts with ContractProbe or  learn how to determine whether a term in the contract is unfair here.

ContractProbe Voted № 1 Lawtech Startup

14 December 2017

Best of 2017 Edition – your top 10 #Lawtech startups (ranked by click through) across 45 issues this year 🏆

№ 1. ContractProbe: Review a contract in

One of the first two startups backed by the Mills Oakley accelerator, this tool will flag issues and quality-score your contract in jiffy. According to creator, ex-Allens partner, Michael Pattison: “
This kills the billable hour dead.

№ 2. Heureka: A Clear View Into Your Unstructured data

Heúreka “I have found it!” Or so they say. This platform gives you the ability to extract intelligence from dark data,
for legal, regulatory, compliance and cybersecurity applications.

№ 3. Midasium: A Prototype of a Smart Tenancy Contract

An Ethereum smart contract prototype, built to interface with Citibank’s payment API - here’s their demo at
the Citibank Mobile Challenge Final in Sydney back in late 2015. This needs to exist.

ContractProbe Selected for Legal Technology Accelerator

30 May 2017

Australia's 10th-largest law firm Mills Oakley has revealed the first two start-ups it will support through its $500,000 accelerator program, with the founder of one a former 21-year Allens partner who claims his robot will "kill the billable hour dead".

Mills Oakley chief executive John Nerurker flagged last year that up to six start-ups would enter the first intake of the program, which it is paying Melbourne-based innovation consultancy Collective Campus to run.

Only two of 35 applicants were deemed to have products sufficiently advanced and commercially viable to test on Mills Oakley lawyers, with the firm taking a 7 per cent equity stake in each.

One is Speak To Scout, the Brisbane-based builder of a "chatbot" claiming to give personalised legal guidance to consumers researching online. Mr Nerurker said an obvious application of the product was as a referrer for migration law advice, or it could be customised for in-house legal counsel to help them find and instruct external legal providers.

The other is ContractProbe, an automator of contract reviews developed by Michael Pattison, a technology lawyer at Allens for 31 years (21 of them as a partner) until last May, when he decided "now or never" and took the leap into entrepreneurship.

Contract review automation is already a competitive field, with global players like Kira Systems getting installed by Australian firms like DLA Piper, however Mr Pattison claimed his product was different.

"There's plenty of systems that will help you draft a contract, ContractProbe comes into its own when you receive a copy of a contract as part of a negotiation," he told The Australian Financial Review.

Learning from new contracts

ContractProbe has been "trained" on thousands of executed non-disclosure agreements, consultancy agreements, employment agreements and technology licences. However Mr Pattison, who has a Masters in Computer Science from RMIT, claimed it also has an artificial intelligence "front-end" capable of learning from new contracts it processes, so that it is able to identify missing clauses or clauses that are unusual.

Exhibiting at ABA TechShow 2017

The ContractProbe booth had an eye-catching inflatable boxing kangaroo and Cherry Ripe candy, a nod to their Australian origins. But what caught our eye were these stress balls in the shape of a brain, perfect for the parent company of the product, Neural Contract Company. The Pitch: “ContractProbe will cut down substantially the length of time you have to spend on reviewing a contract. ContractProbe will also make your work easier. No one likes proofreading documents for the types of errors that ContractProbe picks up. ContractProbe takes that weight off your shoulders and allows you to decide simply whether you’re concerned about a particular problem or not. Finally, ContractProbe reduces the risks of missing important clauses in contracts.”

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