OBA Innovator-in-Residence Colin Lachance aims to help lawyers integrate AI into their practice

Ontario Bar Association names legal tech expert for 2024-25, plans artificial intelligence training

OBA Innovator-in-Residence Colin Lachance aims to help lawyers integrate AI into their practice
Colin Lachance is the Ontario Bar Association’s Innovator-in-Residence for 2024-25

Colin Lachance has often described his career in law as being “an arm’s length away from being an engineer.”

As the Ontario Bar Association’s Innovator-in-Residence for 2024-25, he’ll get a chance to combine both sets of skills while he spearheads an initiative for helping lawyers integrate artificial intelligence into their practices.

“I knew for a long time that tech would always be a significant part of my future,” says Lachance, who called to the Alberta bar in 1998 and Ontario in 2004. 

For much of his career, he was involved in developing telecommunications and internet regulations and policies, working with phone companies, cable companies, and associations such as the CRTC and Industry Canada. However, his move into “legal tech” happened in 2011, when he became CEO of CanLII, a position he held until 2015.

He’s also had founding roles with legal publisher Compass, the non-profit Legal Innovation Data Institute, the legal AI startup Jurisage and as interim general manager with the global legal publisher vLex.

So, when the OBA approached him asking about the possibility of participating in its innovator program, Lachance saw it as an opportunity to help lawyers unlock the power of AI.

“AI holds tremendous potential for the legal profession, and I’m eager to help OBA members harness this technology to improve their practice,” says Lachance. “When used right, AI can be a tool that will help lawyers do their jobs better. The OBA is helping to shape and define the lawyer-AI partnership and mould it in a way that puts the lawyer in the driver’s seat.”

Rather than fear the coming of artificial intelligence, Lachance says he and the OBA wanted to educate lawyers whose profession is bound to be deeply impacted by AI’s use. “To help them gain the ability to understand how and when to use AI and what’s happening in the market, and help them discern what’s true about AI, and what isn’t.”

As Innovator-in-Residence with the OBA, Lachance’s mandate will involve:

  • Building an AI Sandbox Tool enabling lawyers and firm leaders to learn about AI technologies. This includes designing a hands-on training program for lawyers to leverage the sandbox environment to create and tailor AI tools for their practice.
  • Office hours that include a weekly Zoom lunch hour chat for OBA members interested in the latest AI developments, answers to member questions and informal

conversations with leading legal AI thinkers from around the globe. 

  • Designing a series of instructive and educational communications tools to advance knowledge and understanding of AI’s role in the legal field.
  • Providing AI tool guidelines that will offer a comprehensive list of considerations and instructions for building or tailoring AI tools for legal practice.
  • Developing a template set of organizational policies that law firms of all sizes could adopt.

Lachance hopes the office hours will be a “great way to get the conversation going and make sure I’m responding to what lawyers want to know.”

Lachance also says he’s lined up speakers to provide guidance on a range of topics involving AI and the legal profession – “whether it’s contract analysis or research, for example.”

He says that while there is a “lot of hype” about AI, research into its potential dates well back into the 1960s, “specifically the idea of recognizing language as a data set.” Then the research moved into thinking about building data models, he says, and “now we talk about generative AI,” which is artificial intelligence capable of generating text, images, videos, or other data using generative models in response to prompts. Generative AI models learn the patterns and structure of their input training data and then generate new data with similar characteristics.

Lachance adds, “Two years ago, the conversation would have been more about the technology itself and the potential for AI to take away jobs. Today, it’s a market forces conversation, and how lawyers can use AI pragmatically.”  Those in the legal profession want to know how it will change how they operate. 

OBA president Kelly McDermott says the organization’s first job with AI, as with all other innovations, is to provide education and valuable tools to improve the lives of lawyers and help them do their jobs. She adds that Lachance “is the ideal person to take the OBA’s Real Intelligence on AI [program] to the next level.”

The OBA annually appoints and financially supports an innovator to serve one year, focusing on a designated innovation theme of importance to practising lawyers. While “in residence,” the innovator’s role is to identify, develop and advance innovations that will help lawyers better serve their clients.

Lachance says he hopes that through programs like the OBA’s Innovator-in-Residence, “Ontario as a jurisdiction will find itself in a position where those in the legal profession have received sufficient guidance so that they won’t be caught unawares about what changes AI will bring about, and they know how to handle it and use its potential.”

Related stories

Free newsletter

Our newsletter is FREE and keeps you up to date on all the developments in the Ontario legal community. Please enter your email address below to subscribe.

Recent articles & video

The tale of Umar Zameer's two trials – the criminal court and the court of public opinion

Court of Appeal clarifies how tort of abuse of process interacts with criminal proceedings

Mariam Moktar elected second vice-president of the Ontario Bar Association

Ontario Superior Court grants plaintiff's motion to add new defendant in slip and fall case

Ontario Court of Appeal dismisses First Nations' appeal over environmental regulation changes

LSO bencher Murray Klippenstein given "substantial indemnity" costs in suit against legal regulator

Most Read Articles

LSO bencher Murray Klippenstein given "substantial indemnity" costs in suit against legal regulator

The tale of Umar Zameer's two trials – the criminal court and the court of public opinion

Ontario Superior Court finds plaintiff contributorily negligent in slip and fall case

Court of Appeal clarifies how tort of abuse of process interacts with criminal proceedings