Cyber Security: AI-powered Microsoft 365 Copilot can be a game-changer 

Cyber Security: AI-powered Microsoft 365 Copilot can be a game-changer 

By Carl Mazzanti

The recent rollout of Microsoft 365 Copilot is big news for law firms and other organizations, as  it unleashes productivity enhancements. But legal practices of all sizes should work with cyber security experts to maintain safe practices around this powerful, AI-enhanced tool.

Copilot combines the capabilities of large language models (LLMs) and an organization’s data to boost productivity, while integrating tightly with popular Microsoft 365 apps like Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Teams, and Outlook.

One international study in 2023 found that about two-thirds of lawyers predict that AI’s biggest deliverable will be in assisting them with research. Other top uses will involve drafting and analyzing documents, and writing emails. In Outlook, for example, Copilot can save time by summarizing long email conversations or matching an attorney user’s unique writing style to draft a detailed response. It can also help legal teams run more-effective meetings by bringing latecomers quickly up to speed, summarizing main points and creating action items.

And Microsoft 365 Copilot can work across all of a firm’s data and applications. For example, an authorized user can prompt Copilot to create a table of pros and cons based on a specific topic discussed in recent emails, meetings, documents, and chats; or it can create a PowerPoint presentation that may help an attorney get his or her points across to a client or other audience. In Excel, Copilot can interpret and visualize data to provide insights into such metrics as billable hours or case outcomes.

In Word, Copilot can quickly draft contracts, since they are highly structured, with specific legal language, terms and conditions. Similarly, Copilot’s ability to extract key information and automate repetitive tasks can accelerate document review and legal research, using advanced algorithms to sift through case laws, precedents, and legal publications to quickly generate summaries.

Law firms that handle large volumes of paperwork, including contracts, agreements, and legal briefs, will find that Copilot can expedite document review and enhance accuracy, since its contextual understanding enables it to comprehend legal language and nuances, helping to ensure that relevant information will not be overlooked.

Copilot can also assist in conducting legal eDiscovery, which can be a lengthy and complex process. This AI-enabled tool, however, can streamline eDiscovery by sifting through data to pinpoint relevant information and perform document review and analysis, saving time and costs while freeing attorneys for more substantive activities.

Security measures

But as with any AI tool, law firms must balance Copilot’s convenience with firm members’ own professional judgment. For example, permission-access limits should be established to avoid disclosing sensitive information to unauthorized parties, both within a firm and externally. Additionally, AI-generated documents should always be carefully reviewed — some attorneys have discovered, the hard way, that LLM models can generate false citations that look real but in fact only exist in the AI’s “imagination.”

And while Copilot can deliver impressive efficiencies, firms must still take appropriate steps to protect the underlying sensitive data that’s being accessed. Such a cyber defense-first mindset includes equipping all networked devices, in and out of the office, with MFA (multifactor authentication, an account login process that requires users to enter secondary information in addition to a password, such as a code that is sent to their email or mobile device); establishing processes to automatically download and install software and other “patches” or upgrades in a timely manner on a regular basis; and automated, continuous network monitoring.

An effective digital defense plan will also feature a comprehensive file backup solution utilizing cloud-based or other offsite storage, a well-developed and updated incident response plan, strong password policies, a blueprint to secure the organization’s domain name system — which identifies computers reachable through the Internet or other Internet Protocol networks — good user-cyber hygiene, and security awareness.

Firms that work with a seasoned information technology provider to adopt Copilot early, with appropriate oversight, will boost their competitive advantage. They will benefit from efficiency and productivity gains that can lead to innovation, improved client experience and increased client loyalty and retention.

Carl Mazzanti is president of eMazzanti Technologies, a cyber security and IT support organization based in Hoboken, NJ. The company can be reached at [email protected].

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