Wednesday 31 January 2024

We built an AI Assistant, Orbital Copilot, that thinks like a real estate lawyer!

 It uses the latest agentic GenAI concepts and is accelerating lawyers' work by 70%

(This was re-posted from a blog post I recently wrote on Orbital Witness's Tech Blog just after we launched Orbital Copilot)

Executive Summary

  • Innovative Partnership: Orbital Witness and Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner (BCLP) collaborate to bring Orbital Copilot to the forefront of real estate legal practice
  • Evolution of AI in LegalTech: The transition from classical machine learning (ML) to Large Language Models (LLMs) and now the rise of AI Agents transforms what is possible with Generative AI
  • Orbital Copilot’s Capabilities: Offers unparalleled analysis, review, and reporting for real estate legal documents, giving lawyers up to 70% in time savings for lease reporting and other tasks
  • Global Expansion: Following the UK success, Orbital Copilot will expand to the U.S. and other sophisticated real estate markets
  • Customer Cohort: Prestigious law firms are among the first adopters, demonstrating trust and confidence in Orbital Copilot


Two months ago we announced our partnership with Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner (BCLP). It was one of many significant steps that has enabled us to bring our AI Assistant, Orbital Copilot, to the forefront of real estate legal practice and deliver a significant impact for our customers.

The genesis of Orbital Copilot dates to mid-2022, born out of our data scientists’ exploratory work with Generative AI, harnessing the power of Google’s BERT and T5 language models. The landscape suddenly shifted with OpenAI’s introduction of ChatGPT in November 2022 and the subsequent release of GPT-4. These advancements fueled our research and development (R&D) of cutting-edge internal tools, quickly proving indispensable to our legal engineers. Our presentation in June 2023, “Generative AI: Opportunities and Risks for Property Transactions,” was a turning point. Our law firms immediately recognised the potential of the GenAI tools we had developed, eagerly requesting access as soon as they were available. Responding to this demand, our team rapidly advanced from a Closed Alpha of Orbital Copilot, meticulously refined with invaluable feedback from a select group of early adopters.

This rapid evolution from an R&D concept to a practical tool for real estate lawyers epitomises our agility, innovation and relentless commitment to delivering genuinely valuable products to our customers. Orbital Copilot today stands as the first product of its kind in the industry: a real estate, domain-specific AI Agent that offers unparalleled analysis, review, and reporting capabilities across multiple real estate legal documents.

In this blog post, we will uncover the unique aspects that make Orbital Copilot a groundbreaking product. We’ll clarify why it’s more than a rebranded ChatGPT and delve into its potential to revolutionise real estate legal practice.

The evolution of AI in LegalTech

  • Classical Machine Learning (ML): In the early versions of LegalTech, NLP-based solutions primarily relied on classical supervised ML techniques. This involved collecting extensive labelled datasets and training various supervised ML models for text classification and question answering. At Orbital Witness, this was our initial approach, leading to the creation of some of the industry’s most accurate ML models for classifying real estate legal text.
  • Large Language Models (LLMs): The advent of LLMs in 2023 marked a paradigm shift. The traditional dependency on vast collections of labelled data for tasks like classification and question answering began to fade. Systems could be built with LLM APIs (such as OpenAI’s GPT-3.5 or Anthropic’s Claude or Google’s Gemini Pro) where they are given a portion of legal text, the “context”, along with specific instructions, the “prompt”, and the underlying LLM generates relevant responses. These systems can be advanced further by incorporating techniques such as retrieval-augmented generation (RAG) which enhances their ability to manage and interpret extensive context from multiple, lengthy documents. This is the most common type of system that many companies are currently building. Such a system is good for simplistic tasks but has several limitations when applied to the type of work lawyers typically do when performing due diligence. As the LegalTech AI landscape evolves, we will continue to see many more products built that summarise documents or answer specific one-off questions. The technology to perform these types of simplistic tasks is becoming well understood. The real long-term value is a dynamic AI assistant built on the AI Agent architectural pattern.

  • AI Agents: Highlighted by OpenAI’s CEO, Sam Altman, at OpenAI’s DevDay in November 2023 (referenced in this Financial Times article), the future of AI Agents was brought into the spotlight. Altman’s announcement of customisable “GPTs” and the prospective “GPT Store” (a marketplace for ChatGPT-based chatbots) signaled a new era. While current “GPTs” are relatively basic AI Agents, they hint at a transformative trend: AI-powered ‘agents’ capable of autonomously performing tasks and radically improving what is now possible with LLM-based applications. In LegalTech, imagine an AI Agent that, from a single query like “What is the rent for this property?”, could pinpoint relevant details across multiple documents, such as leases and deeds of variation, and then logically deduce the answer, mimicking a lawyer’s analytical process.

What defines an AI Agent?

In exploring the concept of AI Agents, Lilian Weng’s insightful blog post stands out, where she defines them as “LLM Powered Autonomous Agents”. Weng emphasises that the core of an AI Agent is the LLM, functioning as its ‘brain’, complemented by three critical components: Planning, Memory, and Tool Use.

This architecture, when expertly constructed, harbours the potential to transform the legal field. It transcends the more simplistic notion of being merely a thin wrapper around GPT-4 or a “ChatGPT for lawyers”. An AI Agent can be equipped with specialised tools designed for intricate real estate legal tasks such as looking up specific data in a land registry or determining how rent provisions might be varied by another document. The “LLM brain” skillfully determines the optimal use of these tools to execute tasks with precision and depth, as directed by a legal professional. Moreover, the AI Agent possesses the ability to reason about its generated outputs. This ability enables a real estate legal AI Agent to decide between several potential outcomes:

  • Continue to delve deeper into the legal documents at it’s disposal to find a more fitting answer
  • Request additional real estate documents or data, it feels are missing, to more comprehensively answer the question
  • Decide it has a complete answer and present a valid response back to the lawyer who initiated the instruction

The Significance of AI Agents

The concept of AI Agents has been gaining substantial attention, particularly highlighted by OpenAI’s CEO, Sam Altman (see this Financial Times article). Altman underscores the significance of these AI agents in the overall AI landscape, with OpenAI’s upcoming GPT Store being a testament to their commitment to this platform shift. Ethan Mollick further explores this idea in his post Almost an Agent: What GPTs can do, where he states:

“In their reveal of GPTs, OpenAI clearly indicated that this was just the start… GPTs can be easily integrated into with other systems, such as your email, a travel site, or corporate payment software. You can start to see the birth of true agents as a result. It is easy to design GPTs that can, for example, handle expense reports. It would have permission to look through all your credit card data and emails for likely expenses, write up a report in the right format, submit it to the appropriate authorities, and monitor your bank account to ensure payment. And you can imagine even more ambitious autonomous agents that are given a goal … and carry that out in whatever way they see fit.”

Olivia Moore, a Consumer Partner at venture capital firm a16z, further echoed the potential of AI Agents in a recent tweet at the end of 2023:

The Impact of a Real Estate Legal AI Agent: Orbital Copilot

Orbital Copilot, our innovative AI Agent at Orbital Witness, is revolutionising the way real estate legal work is conducted. It closely emulates the tasks of real estate lawyers, who often wade through extensive legal documents to perform due diligence for their clients. Here’s how Orbital Copilot is transforming the field:

  • Comprehensive Document Analysis: It can digest hundreds of pages of intricate legal text across numerous PDF documents whether typed, written manuscript or both
  • Diverse Question Resolution: From straightforward questions like “What is the date of the lease?” to more complex queries such as “How has the service charge varied?”, Orbital Copilot handles them all
  • Contextual Understanding: It tracks down definitions within documents to enhance understanding and reasoning
  • Thorough Information Gathering: Whether it’s following the breadcrumb trail across one or several documents, it ensures all necessary information is collated
  • Supplementary Research: It seeks out additional legal information to refine its understanding of the lawyer’s initial instructions. This could be a proprietary legal knowledge base or data from HM Land Registry
  • Targeted Summarisation: Orbital Copilot can summarise entire documents or specific sections across multiple documents
  • Language Simplification: It adeptly rephrases complex legal jargon into layman’s terms for client comprehensibility
  • Trusted Referencing: Orbital Copilot indicates the parts of the PDF documents it consulted, facilitating direct navigation to the primary evidence supporting its answers so lawyers can immediately see and trust where an answer came from
  • Transparent Reasoning: Like consulting a junior lawyer to ask how they came to their conclusion, it transparently reveals its thought process and how it arrived at specific conclusions so a lawyer can focus on the legal nature of the problem and not some “black box” technology

Specifically tailored for real estate legal tasks, Orbital Copilot’s combination of features yields remarkable time savings for lawyers. Considering the busy schedules of legal professionals, often billing in six-minute increments, Orbital Copilot’s efficiency is a game-changer. Our thorough testing with top-tier UK law firms, involving real client work, revealed that Orbital Copilot can reduce the time for a comprehensive lease report by up to 70%. Given that a single property’s lease report can take 2-10+ hours depending on complexity, this translates to substantial financial savings per property for law firms and their clients. Given the regularity of lease reports in real estate law, the cumulative efficiency and cost savings are substantial.

A Glimpse into Orbital Copilot’s Functionality

Let’s take a closer look at how Orbital Copilot operates in practice. Consider this scenario where two key PDF documents are uploaded:

  • Lease dated 06-06-2008
  • Deed of variation dated 31-03-2016

In this instance, the deed modifies several aspects of the lease, including the rent. When prompted with the query “What is the rent and how has it been varied?”, Orbital Copilot leaps into action. It begins by understanding the question’s context and the documents at hand. Then, it meticulously searches and reads the pertinent sections in both documents. Finally, Orbital Copilot analyses its findings, formulates a response, and presents it for review.

Another illustration of Orbital Copilot’s capabilities is shown in the processing of a short form lease report, which includes 10 targeted questions. It’s important to note that Orbital Copilot is equipped with a variety of pre-configured lease reports, ranging from basic to highly detailed enquiries about the legal documents. The next video demonstrates the types of questions posed in the short form lease report. It also showcases how users can easily reference specific parts of the underlying documents for additional context or to validate Orbital Copilot’s responses:

Engineering challenges

At Orbital Witness, leveraging the most advanced LLMs like GPT-4 is essential to meet the high standards required for legal document analysis. However, this approach presents several engineering challenges:

  • Cost Management: Utilising state-of-the-art LLMs for thorough analysis of extensive legal documents, often running into hundreds of pages, is crucial for achieving the accuracy our lawyer clients depend on. However, the use of such advanced technology incurs significant costs. Although we anticipate a decrease in expenses as Nvidia ramps up GPU production and AI labs enhance LLM efficiency, the current challenge lies in optimising our LLM usage to maintain a balance between cost-effectiveness and high-quality output.
  • Resource Availability: The global shortage of Nvidia GPUs, coupled with the soaring demand for LLM functionalities, has compelled LLM providers to impose caps on the number of tokens (akin to words) processed per minute through their APIs. This limitation affects our capacity to onboard new customers and influences the execution speed of tasks within Orbital Copilot. While we expect this issue to diminish as GPU availability increases and LLMs become more efficient, it remains a significant short-term constraint that requires careful management.
  • Ensuring Reliability: Many LLM providers, despite their technological prowess, are relatively new to managing complex, fault-tolerant services on a global scale. This inexperience can lead to occasional service fragility, manifesting as uptime issues and performance degradation. Such challenges directly impact our operations, necessitating continuous vigilance and adaptability to maintain uninterrupted service quality.

The Future of Orbital Copilot

The trajectory of Orbital Copilot is set to reach remarkable milestones. Our recent collaboration with Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner (BCLP) is a testament to this. Through our “global design partnership,” we’re extending our lease reporting capabilities, initially honed in the UK, to BCLP’s real estate practices in both the U.K. and the U.S. This marks Orbital Witness’ ambitious leap from a UK-centric operation to a transatlantic presence in 2024. Our existing clients are already expressing eagerness to harness Orbital Copilot’s benefits on a global scale.

At our core, we are a product-centric company, deeply invested in understanding and addressing our customers’ needs. This customer-first approach drives our product development, guiding us in crafting a roadmap that tackles their most pressing challenges. Currently, we are channelling our energies into developing some groundbreaking features, slated for release in the first and second quarters of 2024. These upcoming enhancements are poised to further revolutionise the landscape of real estate legal technology, strengthening Orbital Copilot’s position as a trailblazer in the field.

Launching with an Esteemed Customer Cohort

Emerging from a highly successful private closed beta in the final quarter of 2023, we at Orbital Witness have quickly transitioned to welcoming our first batch of paying customers. This group, having been on our eagerly anticipated waitlist, represents a diverse array of prestigious companies. Their readiness to adopt Orbital Copilot’s AI Agent speaks volumes about their commitment to embracing the cutting-edge of Generative AI in real estate legal work. We are immensely proud and excited to collaborate closely with these industry leaders, each a prominent name in their respective fields:

  • BCLP: Global law firm with 31 offices worldwide and clients who represent 35% of the Fortune 500
  • Clifford Chance: One of the world’s largest law firms, with significant depth and range of resources across five continents
  • Charles Russell Speechlys: International law firm headquartered in London with offices across the UK, Europe, Asia and the Middle East
  • Macfarlanes: A distinctive London-based law firm with a unique combination of services built and shaped around their clients’ needs
  • Ropes and Gray: Global team with 13 offices on three continents and named “Law Firm of the Year” by The American Lawyer in 2022 and ranked number one on The American Lawyer’s A-List of elite firms
  • Walker Morris: Independent law firm with a first-class international reputation
  • Thomson Snell and Passmore: The oldest law firm in operation tracing back to the late 16th century
  • Thompson, Smith and Puxon: Established in 1879, TSP has grown to be one of the leading law firms in Essex
  • Able UK: Market leader in wind energy & marine decommissioning along with being a significant land developer and port & vehicle storage operator

Customer Testimonials

“Orbital Copilot is next generation legal technology and is helping us continue to focus our Real Estate lawyers’ time on the areas that are most valuable to clients. Our IT strategy has always been to seek out the best technology tools for our needs and our collaboration with Orbital Witness is a key plank of our Real Estate AI plan.”

        – Matt Taylor, Partner @ Clifford Chance

“BCLP was an early adopter of Orbital Witness’ products, and we are thrilled to collaborate with the company on an AI solution that will provide marked benefits to our clients by accelerating lease reporting and enhancing real estate due diligence. We’re also excited to see so many of our lawyers deeply engaged in the development of leading-edge technology and experiencing the potential of generative AI firsthand.”

        – Samant Narula, BCLP’s U.K. Head of Real Estate

“The potential of Orbital Copilot is stunning. A time saving AI tool which will increase our efficiency. Icing on the cake of Orbital Witness’ services.”

        – Clive Gotley, Head of Legal @ Gridserve

“Copilot is the kind of tool that every lawyer wishes they had. It enables you to review documents quickly and efficiently, whilst also allowing you to check and verify the information, ensuring that the end result is the one that you want.”

        – Amy Shuttleworth, Associate @ Charles Russell Speechlys

Conclusion: The Future is Here with AI Agents

  • AI Agents - A LegalTech Revolution: The future of LegalTech is being reshaped by AI Agents. Their advanced capabilities and adaptability make them indispensable tools to begin integrating into modern legal practices
  • Orbital Copilot - Leading the Charge: Orbital Witness has pioneered the development of the world’s premier AI Agent tailored for real estate legal work. Orbital Copilot is not just an innovation; it’s a game-changer, already enhancing due diligence and reporting processes by an impressive 70%
  • Customer Acclaim: The response from our customers has been overwhelmingly positive. The efficiency and precision Orbital Copilot brings to their client work have made it an essential component of their legal toolkit
  • Join the Early Adopters: For those eager to be part of this transformative journey, we have a limited number of spots in our early adopters cohort. Interest has been high, so we encourage you to sign up quickly to secure your place as more slots become available

As we move forward, Orbital Copilot continues to set new benchmarks in the realm of real estate legal technology. Stay tuned for more updates and innovations as we navigate this exciting frontier.