Copilot is your upcoming digital assistant in pretty much all the Microsoft applications you use day-to-day. So, what do you need to know about utilizing this technology in your legal practice? Sharon Nelson and Jim Calloway welcome Ben Schorr to discuss the many lawyer-specific Copilot possibilities, from meeting notes, to case summaries, email drafts, and more. They also discuss its current reliability, a privacy overview, and Ben’s top tips for getting the most out of Copilot in your Microsoft apps.
Ben M. Schorr is a senior content designer at Microsoft.
Intro: Before we begin, we would like to thank our sponsor, Nota. Welcome to The Digital Edge with Sharon Nelson and Jim Calloway. Your hosts, both legal technologists, authors and lecturers, invite industry professionals to discuss a new topic related to lawyers and technology. You’re listening to Legal Talk Network.
Sharon D. Nelson: Welcome to the 185th edition of The Digital Edge, lawyers and technology. We’re glad to have you with us. I’m Sharon Nelson, President of Sensei Enterprises, an information technology, cyber security and digital forensics firm in Fairfax, Virginia.
Jim Calloway: And I’m Jim Calloway Director of the Oklahoma Bar Associations Management Assistance Program. Today our topic is Microsoft’s Copilot, new AI tools for Microsoft 365. Our Guest today is Ben Schorr, a Senior Content PM at Microsoft and an accomplished author widely recognized for his expertise in Microsoft 365. With over three decades of experience in legal technology, he has become a sought-after speaker and consultant Schorr’s passion for simplifying complex technical concepts has made him a trusted resource for mastering productivity tools and maximizing efficiency in the digital workplace. Thanks for joining us today, Ben.
Ben Schorr: It’s always an honor to be invited. Thanks, Jim.
Sharon D. Nelson: Well, Ben, why don’t you start by telling us what’s involved in your role as a Senior Content Project Manager at Microsoft.
Ben Schorr: Absolutely. Before I answer that, I probably should say that our lawyers would like it if I make it clear that what I’m going to share today are my opinions and experiences with Copilot and not necessarily those of Microsoft. That said, I work in a group called Customer Success Engineering. And my particular role is to develop content. That means articles, videos, even things you might see on screen in the apps that helps our customers get the most out of Microsoft 365. So, I spend a lot of my days writing, reviewing scripts, looking at videos, working with the product teams, trying to help the customers understand it all.
Jim Calloway: Okay, Ben. Well let’s just start off with the big question for our podcast. What is Microsoft 365 Copilot?
Ben Schorr: Yeah, Microsoft 365 Copilot, it’s an AI-powered digital assistant. It uses large language models, LOMS as they’re called. And it’s built into the Microsoft 365 apps. So, they’re going to help you get stuff done and create drafts of contents, just different ways to write something, offer summaries of content like documents or presentations, emails, that kind of thing. And you do a whole bunch of other pretty cool stuff.
Sharon D. Nelson: Well, I can’t wait to get a chance to try it. So, what apps does it appear in?
Ben Schorr: Pretty much all of them. You’re going to find it initially in Word, Excel, OneNote, Outlook, Teams. If we make it, it’s probably going to have Copilot in it at some point. And that’s also true of things like Windows and services like the —
Jim Calloway: I guess I’ll ask the obligatory question for AI topics. Is this one the end of lawyers?
Ben Schorr: Oh, yeah. Definitely. No, I’m kidding of course. There’s a reason we call it Copilot and not autopilot. It’s intended to help people get more done. It’s there to work alongside you not instead of you. Nobody should be asking Copilot to write a legal document, contract or brief and then just taking that result and filing it. That would be a big mistake. And I think we’ve seen a couple people make that mistake, although not with. Copilot. I should hasten to add whatever they were using in New York and Colorado. I think it was. It was not Copilot. But yeah, Copilot is great at creating a first draft you can build on. Copilot is great at taking a paragraph you wrote and suggesting rewrites that might make it clearer, more concise, that kind of thing. Copilot is great at creating a summary of a document or an email thread so you can get up to speed faster. But Copilot is not a lawyer and it isn’t here to replace lawyers. So I think it’s not the end of lawyers.
Jim Calloway: And I assume it’s going to be in other people’s tools not just lawyers.
Ben Schorr: Yeah, definitely. Yeah, it’s for everybody. It might be another nail in the coffin of the Billable Hour though. That’s a whole other conversation
Jim Calloway: It certainly is.
Sharon D. Nelson: You made a bunch of lawyers just faint.
Jim Calloway: We are supposed to stall them a little and get revived there. Well, anyway before we can move on to our next segment, let’s take a quick commercial break.
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Sharon D. Nelson: Welcome back to The Digital Edge on the Legal Talk Network. Today our subject is Microsoft’s Copilot, new AI tools for Microsoft 365. Our Guest today is Ben Schorr, a Senior Content PM at Microsoft and an accomplished author widely recognized for his experience in Microsoft 365. With over three decades of experience in legal technology, Ben has become a sought-after speaker and consultant. His passion for simplifying complex technical concepts has made him a trusted resource for mastering productivity tools and maximizing efficiency in the digital workplace. So, I know we’ve talked just a little bit about this but what other sorts of practical things can lawyers use Copilot for, Ben?
Ben Schorr: I hinted at it a little bit in my last answers. Let’s talk a little bit more about that if you need to create a first draft or something like a letter or a blog post, for example. Copilot is great about getting you off that blank page. So you can tell it what you want the post to be about and it can create that first draft. And you can even give it some guidance. For example, you can tell it, create a one-page draft based on this rough outline then you could paste in an outline of what you want to do. Maybe you’ve got an existing document and you want to see if a particular paragraph could be written more carefully or more clearly. So, Copilot could suggest some alternative ways to write it to make it more concise or heck even funnier if that’s what you’re going for. I can’t vouch for Copilot’s sense of humor with yours but you can try. If you have an existing document, you need to create a PowerPoint presentation based on that document. We’re all speakers at conferences and I can say that the ability to have your handouts and your presentation created simultaneously is kind of intriguing. You know, you can write the handout and then tell PowerPoint, Copilot and PowerPoint, to create a presentation based on that document.
Sharon D. Nelson: Including graphics?
Ben Schorr: Yes, if you want it to. So, Copilot can do that. It can take that Word document and create a draft presentation from it. Including speaker notes by the way. It’ll take a stab of speaker notes. Now, keep in mind as I’ve said before these are drafts, right? So, it’s going to create the draft presentation. Still up to you to go through, review, it put it in your own voice. You may want to reorganize it or rearrange it a little bit but it can get you off that blank page and it can get you a long way towards your finished product and then you just have to go in review, polish and get it finished. Copilot is really good at summarizing. We probably all come back from a weekend or a vacation, heck lunch and found a long email thread that happened while we were away. Up till now we’d have to scroll back and do a lot of reading to figure out what was going on in that conversation. Copilot can summarize it for you and give you the key points so that you can get up to speed pretty quickly on that. It doesn’t necessarily replace reading the messages. You actually have to read them still, but at least you can understand going in, what’s going on and how deeply you need to dive into it.
Copilot and Teams can do that for meetings and chats. So, summarizing, what’s been set up to that point for example. You could even ask it questions about what’s been discussed in the meeting which is pretty cool. You can ask Copilot to suggest next steps. Again, in a meeting you could say you know what’s been discussed and what do you recommend for next steps. Now, not all of its recommendations are going to be, you know, gold but they’re often quite useful and Copilot can also summarize Word documents, PowerPoint Slide Decks. So, the ability to summarize is pretty powerful, function that Copilot that lawyers will probably like.
Jim Calloway: Well, let’s talk credibility. Does Copilot make up stuff? Does it hallucinate like chat GPT does on occasion?
Ben Schorr: Oh, that’s such an important question. And we’ve had a lot of conversations about that. You know, I think Jared Spataro, who’s one of our corporate vice presidents said it best. He said, sometimes Copilot will get it right and other times it’ll be usefully wrong. I love that phrasing “usefully wrong.” Because I’ve actually found that quite a bit in my own use of Copilot, is sometimes it gives me content I can use right out the box. It gives me a paragraph, a word, a page, whatever and sometimes it gives me something that isn’t quite what I wanted or is it quite correct but it points me in the right direction or It gives me inspiration for how I might approach that piece of content.
You know, I asked Copilot not too long ago to write a short blog post for a hobby blog that I maintain. And it wrote about six paragraphs. Just about what I wanted. Three of those paragraphs were good, quite good. The other three I needed to edit those and fix them a bit. Was it a disaster? No, not at all because it took a process that might have taken me an hour to do before, cut it down to maybe 15 minutes. So, it was really helpful even though it wasn’t entirely correct right from the start.
Sharon D. Nelson: What about the real hallucination that we’ve seen So often of citing cases that don’t exist or things like that articles that don’t exist, wrong citations? I’ve had a lot of personal experience with that. So, will it have those kinds of hallucinations because I don’t know of an AI product that doesn’t have it.
Ben Schorr: Yeah, I mean I haven’t seen Copilot do that yet. But yeah, like any AI, there’s always the possibility of inaccuracies or sensitive material. And so, it’s really important that you review and verify any factual information it gives you. And that comes back to what I said, kind of at the beginning, which is you should not be writing, using it to write a brief or a memo or something you’re going to file with the court or send to a client unless you’re going to review it first. You’ve got to review it.
Sharon D. Nelson: Well, do you have any tips for getting the best results? Is this like so many of the other AIs, you kind of have to master the prompts?
Ben Schorr: Yeah, it definitely helps. So, a couple of things that I think can help with Copilot or any AI really, the first step is really think about what you want it to create for you and then try to use that in your prompts. The more specific you can be, the better the result you’re going to get. So, you know, telling it, you know, write a letter to the landlord about water damage in the office. Okay, it’ll do that. It’ll give you a draft of that but it’s not going to be very specific because it doesn’t know. If you say write a letter to the landlord, Joe Smith about water damage in the reception area of the office that occurred on May 20th, telling it cost us three days of business and request he credits us for three days of office rent as compensation, you’re going to get a much better and more detailed draft in that.
So, the more detailed and the more specific you can be with your prompt going in, the better off, you’re going to be. And you can use, as I mentioned before, you can do things like copy and pasting outlines, you can have it refer to other documents in your system if there’s another related document that you want it to look at to create this new document, it can do that. So, the more information you give it, the better.
The second suggestion I have is try a bunch of stuff. You know, ask Copilot to create what you want and then try phrasing it a different way. Sometimes just changing the wording can really help. You know, play with it. Pay attention to how little differences, you know, in what and how you ask and change the output. I guess the last thing I’d suggest is sometimes setting context can help and we’ve seen this with other AI tools as well. That sometimes if you say, how often should I water my trees? It’ll give you one answer. If you tell it, act as a professional landscaper, how often should I water my trees? You can actually, amazingly enough get a better answer sometimes. Because you’ve set that context ahead of time. So, in some cases it may be helpful to set a context ahead of time and tell it you want it to act as the client, you want it to act as an attorney, you want it to act as whatever, and that can help set a context that will sometimes get you better results.
Jim Calloway: Ben, I just love the idea of using my data and my papers and my emails to provide the data for this. It sounds like it’ll be really useful but what about privacy. Is Copilot going to be training the public database with our private data?
Jim Calloway: It’s piggybacking off your permission basically.
Ben Schorr: Exactly. It uses the same permissions that the user has. If that user can’t open that file, then neither can Copilot or that user.
Jim Calloway: Okay, before we move on to our next segment, let’s take a quick commercial break.
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Sharon D. Nelson: Welcome back to The Digital Edge Welcome on the Legal Talk Network. Today our subject is Microsoft’s Copilot, new AI tools for Microsoft 365. Our Guest today is Ben Schorr, a Senior Content Project Manager at Microsoft and an accomplished author widely recognized for his expertise in Microsoft 365. With over three decades of experience in legal technology, Ben has become a sought-after speaker and consultant. His passion for simplifying complex technical concepts has made him a trusted resource for mastering productivity tools and maximizing efficiency in the digital workplace. So, Ben I think everybody wants to know when are the lawyers going to get Copilot and is there any additional cost?
Ben Schorr: Copilot is eminent. It’s in a very limited private preview today. We don’t have any announced timetable for broad availability but I can promise you we are working very hard on it. We are recording this in the middle of my workday and I have more meetings this afternoon about this very subject. We are on it. As for pricing, I don’t have anything I can share on that today and I’m not being coy there. I actually don’t know if that’s been decided yet. But keep your eyes open because, you know, obviously more announcements are coming. So, that’ll be fun too. I believe the current plan though is that Microsoft 365 Copilot is going to be an add-on license available for Microsoft 365 E3, E5, business standard and business premium customers to begin with. I think that’s the crew.
Sharon D. Nelson: So, there would be some kind of cost. You just don’t know what it would be?
Ben Schorr: I believe that’s true. Of course, if get anything else, it could change, you know, 10 minutes from now.
Sharon D. Nelson: We’re certainly familiar with that, with the generative AIs. It is remarkable how what you knew yesterday is quickly history.
Ben Schorr: Yeah, yeah.
Jim Calloway: Well, there always seems to be breaking news about AIs of any kind. That’s been kind of the theme of the year in following technology. So, is there any breaking news you can release about Copilot?
Ben Schorr: Gosh, you know, it’s moving so fast. There’s probably been news while we’ve been having this conversation. You may have heard that Windows Copilot has started showing up in the preview builds of Windows 11. That’s pretty cool. I don’t know what their release schedule is for Windows Copilot, for broad availability. But if you’re on one of the preview builds, you may be starting to see it already appear for you, on your machines. Windows Copilot, my understanding, I don’t work very closely with the Windows team and Copilot, so this is just my understanding. Windows Copilot builds on or what we’ve done with Bing Chat. That should be pretty cool to see right there integrated into the OS.
And it can also I believe do a number of things as far as like changing Windows settings for you, if you’ve asked it to. So, you can, if you want to change to the dark mode, I believe you can ask Copilot change to dark mode and it’ll just do it which is kind of nice. And that really kind of highlights one of the biggest revolutions I think of this generative AI that we’re seeing, including Copilot. Not as much I mean, yes, of course the things that can do are very cool but the interface it has is especially cool because it’s the first time maybe a broad-based natural language interface wherein you can literally ask it to do what you want to do in your own words, in plain English and it’ll do it. And for the most part you don’t have to worry too much about syntax, about very specific syntax. I mean it used to be if you if you spoke exactly the right robot ease, you could you could maybe get something to do it but now you don’t have to do that. The natural language processing in all of these AIs is just amazing and that may be the biggest part of this revolution really of AI, is that natural language processing.
So, Windows Copilot is starting to roll out and brings a lot of that natural language processing right to the Windows UI. Also, we’ve launched an AI skills initiative, which is a free online. You can junction with LinkedIn Learning. So, anybody can get up to speed on AI and generative AI. I believe there’s also a professional certificate. It will grant you at the end of it, if you complete it and I think there’s a test or a quiz that they give you the end. If you pass that, you get a little professional certificate on that. That’s free for anybody who wants to take it. You can find that if you search for Microsoft AI skills, I believe we do have a web search for that.
Sharon D. Nelson: You know, as I’ve been reading about Copilot, the one thing I hear over and over and over again, was that as ChatGPT has really been the big dominant player, everybody is saying that because so many people are using Microsoft 365 that this is going to be the biggest news in AI and will probably overtake in many respects all of the earlier furor over the other software particularly ChatGPT. Although I think there’s room for both. What’s your view of that? Is this going to be as big in the news department as people are saying?
Ben Schorr: I think it’s going to be huge. That’s my personal opinion, of course. But yeah, in my opinion, it’s going to be massive and it’s probably one of the biggest changes we’ve made to Microsoft 365 and the Office apps in years. It’s hard to think of one that’s bigger in terms of potential. You know, it’s super exciting. I get to work with it every day. I really enjoy it even when it’s usefully wrong. Oh, I think it’s going to be a really big change and a lot of people are going to — I hope it’s going to be positive change for everybody. I think it will be. But yeah, it’s going to be big.
Sharon D. Nelson: Well, I guess that affirms what the headlines have been screaming for a while. So anyway, thank you for joining us today and taking your time. We really appreciate it. We know you’re somewhat constrained because everything isn’t out in the open yet and some things haven’t even been decided. So, no worries there. But it’s kind of nice to get a little bit of a preview and a little bit of background on how this is going and as always, Jim and I thank you for our longstanding friendship and all the times you’ve helped us both when we needed information about Microsoft. Thank you. Thank you so much, Ben.
Ben Schorr: Yeah, it’s always my pleasure. I’m always glad to be here with you two.
Sharon D. Nelson: And that does it for this edition of The Digital Edge, Lawyers and Technology. And remember, you can subscribe to all of the editions of this podcast at legaltalknetwork.com or on Apple Podcast. And if you enjoyed our podcast, please rate us in Apple Podcast.
Jim Calloway: Thanks for joining us. Goodbye, Ms. Sharon.
Sharon D. Nelson: Happy trails, cowboy.