What Lawyers Need To Know About Microsoft 365 Copilot

If you’ve been keeping up with our blog this summer, you’ll have noticed that while we talked about ChatGPT, we haven’t mentioned any other AI tools by name. The technology is still in its infancy; while there are specialized AI tools for law firms, there aren’t many to talk about. As the final post in the Answering Legal Blog’s AI month, we wanted to spotlight a specific, forthcoming AI tool: Microsoft 365 Copilot.

Microsoft 365, formerly known as Microsoft Office, has had a major hold on everything from word processing to email for American office life, and lawyers are no different. Of course, there’s plenty that isn’t included in the 365 environment, but the apps that are under its umbrella are widely used throughout the legal world.

Therefore, the promise of a tool that can integrate with the software most law firms are already using is a huge draw for AI. In this blog, we’ll go over everything the as-yet-unreleased Microsoft 365 Copilot can do, and what, specifically, lawyers can look forward to in their future adoption of this tool.

What is Microsoft 365 Copilot?

In 2021, OpenAI released Github Copilot, a coding tool. The intent was to make the “grunt work” of coding, the kind of architecture that is fairly common for things like software and websites, as easy as prompting ChatGPT. In fact, OpenAI is the same research branch that developed ChatGPT, which, while not as specialized, can still do basic coding tasks like creating simple websites.

The promise of an AI coding assistant is that it would save time for developers and allow them to focus on making their websites and apps stand out. In 2022, Github released survey data that indicated that among users of Copilot, 88 percent found themselves to be more productive with AI help.

How is this related to Microsoft? To start with, Github itself is a subsidiary of Microsoft. And, in 2019, Microsoft invested $1 billion in OpenAI, and another $10 billion early in 2023, which tied the two entities together in a partnership and allowed Microsoft to license their AI model for its own development.

Advancements in large language models happened quickly, and led to GPT-4, which is a huge leap forward over GPT-3.5, the model used for ChatGPT as of the publication of this blog. Github Copilot, then, can be thought of as a trial run for Microsoft 365 Copilot, which will use GPT-4, vastly improving the quality of what it provides to businesses. And if the effectiveness of Github Copilot is any indication of what it can offer any business using Microsoft 365, there’s a lot to look forward to.

How Does Microsoft Copilot Work?

Microsoft 365 Copilot directly integrates with the 365 environment, meaning that it can pull information from your email, Word documents, and even Teams meetings. Remember Clippy, the assistant in Word that would pop up at the most inconvenient times? You can think of Microsoft 365 Copilot as a version of Clippy that will actually be helpful.

Because it’s tied into Microsoft’s 365 suite of apps, Microsoft Copilot can understand every business uniquely. Specifically, Copilot uses Microsoft Graph, the 365 environment’s API tool, to access user data and interpret that data into production. This is the same tool that allows outside developers to integrate their apps into 365 apps like Word and Outlook, and it is really just a hive of user data.

In the blog announcing Copilot, Microsoft promises that data will be used “in a secure, compliant, privacy-preserving way”, stating that Copilot is not trained on your user data, but rather accesses it securely the same way other apps might. So while Microsoft Copilot is trained on GPT-4’s large language model, it can access your data to more effectively address your prompts without leaking data into the wider model.

For every 365 app, there is a potential use case for Copilot. For example, do you need to make a presentation, but don’t have the time to spend to make it look good? Microsoft Copilot will be able to create presentations using anything from Teams meeting summaries to outlines in OneNote, creating something much nicer than using a template in a fraction of the time. We’ll go into more detail on what it can do for lawyers specifically in our next section.

What Does Microsoft 365 Copilot Mean For Lawyers?

Put simply, Microsoft Copilot will change the way lawyers work. If you don’t believe us, you can watch the following clip, where Lawyerist CEO Stephanie Everett goes into why she believes it will be game-changing:

For example, if you’re using Outlook for your email, Microsoft Copilot will be able to summarize your inbox, moving you to inbox zero in seconds. Out of town for a week? Copilot can tell you what you missed, and even draft replies to important email chains. It will also be able to scan these emails for important dates and information and add them to your calendar automatically.

If you need to make educational or marketing materials, Microsoft Copilot will be able to use Powerpoint, Publisher, and Word to give you what you need in seconds. Whether you need content for your website, brochures for your office, or emailable presentations to illustrate an upcoming process for your clients, Copilot will be able to deliver it.

And, of course, if you’d like to understand your firm better, Copilot will be able to use Excel to give you easy visualizations of data on everything from billable hours per month to lead conversion rates. As long as the information is within the 365 environment, or can integrate with it, Copilot will be able to access it and make it easily understandable in seconds.

Perhaps most importantly, however, Microsoft Copilot uses GPT-4, the large language model that passed the bar exam in 2023 in the 90th percentile. Copilot is trained on legal texts, and has a pretty good understanding of the law, an understanding that will probably grow as progress is made in the underlying language model. That, combined with its ability to read documents you’ve already created in Word, means that Microsoft Copilot could be the legal document generation model that revolutionizes the way law firms spend their time.

Prepare For The Future With Answering Legal

Change is coming to the legal world. Whether it’s Microsoft 365 Copilot or another AI tool, or even a whole host of them, generative AI stands to completely change the way the legal world spends its time. Gone will be the days of grunt legal research work or rote form creation.

People will still be at the center of a law firm. Don’t worry, lawyers won’t be replaced any time soon; instead, you’ll be freed to spend their time more efficiently. And, of course, the wellbeing of clients will still be the most important thing for every firm.

As long as people prefer talking to other human beings over AI—which we think will be for a long time yet—you’ll still need people to answer the phone. Answering Legal’s virtual receptionists train for months to be those people.

They’ll send a message after every call via text, email, and/or CRM. Whether you’re using an AI tool that integrates with your CRM or something like Microsoft Copilot that can read your email, your phone lines will be integrated with the rest of your firm. You’ll be ready for whatever’s coming next to the legal world.

Start making your firm more efficient today. Click here or call 631-686-9700 to sign up for our free trial. For a limited time, we’re offering firms that sign up for our service their first 400 minutes free.

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