What keeps in-house lawyers up at night? We decided to ask them, surveying 105 in-house lawyers on topics like generative AI, contract automation, and doing more with less. The Tech GC report explores the findings from our legal community.
Navigate our findings and interviews from the sidebar.
Daniel Glazer is the London Office Managing Partner at Wilson Sonsini.
To paraphrase Marc Andreessen, generative AI is eating the world.
As noted in this year’s Tech GC Report, the business community’s adoption of generative AI has been exceptionally fast; 64 per cent of survey respondents said their businesses are using, or are planning to use, generative AI in their operations.
Legal teams who successfully harness the power of generative AI will have a material competitive advantage over those who don’t
I suspect by the time the 2024 Tech GC report drops, we will be shocked that the initial number was so low.
The adoption by high-growth companies – and especially by their in-house legal teams – is inevitable. We have reached an inflection point where legal teams who successfully harness the power and potential of generative AI will have a material competitive advantage over those who don’t.
This feels like a replay of the 1990s when the Internet and the Web became ubiquitous.
At the dawn of the Internet Age, there were concerns that fewer lawyers would be required because all the relevant legal information – case law, contract templates, and so on – would be online. Yet here we are a quarter-century later and the legal profession is thriving.
There always will be demand for lawyers who can exercise good judgement and manage challenging situations.
Lawyers should use all the resources at their disposal – generative AI is one more tool in the toolbox
Lawyers should use all the resources at their disposal in that regard – generative AI is one more tool in the toolbox. This surely will be part of the solution to the two biggest challenges identified in this year’s Tech GC Report: being buried in low-value work, and limited budget and resource.
It isn’t difficult to foresee a future where AI-enabled tools substantially reduce the amount of low-value work that falls on the shoulders of in-house lawyers, and the scalability of generative AI suggests that will be accomplished at a relatively low cost.
This in turn will provide in-house legal teams with more bandwidth to participate as a strategic partner to the business, which should lead to:
Wilson Sonsini is proud to support high-growth companies and their in-house lawyers as they navigate the path ahead, and to continue our partnership with Juro to provide insight into the state of that journey.
We hope you find their insights as interesting as we did.
Juro surveyed 105 in-house lawyers across 30 countries between April 14th and May 2nd 2023, with the following job titles:
Read on to find out what our respondents have to say about legal’s top priorities and biggest challenges in the year ahead.
Generative AI has experienced a meteoric rise in popularity over the past year. Where do in-house lawyers stand on generative AI and its impact on scaling tech businesses?
As technology develops and new ways of working emerge, so do a variety of business opportunities – and legal challenges. In 2023, there’s no better example of this than generative AI, which has been a huge talking point since the launch of ChatGPT by OpenAI in November 2022.
The development of this technology is astounding – GPT- 3.5, released in March 2022, could handle 8,000 words with various applications around natural language communication. Fast forward one year to GPT-4, released in March 2023, and this iteration can handle over 25,000 words, process images, generate captions and analyse contracts.
Adoption by the business community has been exceptionally fast. 64 per cent of our survey respondents said their businesses are using, or are planning to use, generative AI in their operations.
This technology can help businesses simplify their workstreams and save time on manual tasks – whether it’s drafting easy- to-read policies, creating a legal playbook, or integrating with the business’ systems to offer real-time legal support.
The business may be open to experimenting with and implementing generative AI tools, but legal’s opinions on generative AI seem more divided, only slightly leaning towards the positive.
For legal teams using generative AI in their operations already, the applications are varied and can help legal shift low-value work off their plates. Different uses include:
There seem to be enough use cases to help legal work more efficiently. This is invaluable, given that legal teams don’t usually scale in proportion to the rest of the business.
Being able to serve a business scaling commercial headcount into the hundreds while legal only gains one or two additional lawyers is an ever-evolving challenge. This is one that generative AI may be able to positively impact.
On the other hand, 45 per cent of lawyers we surveyed were hesitant to jump in and start using generative AI. Those respondents had reasonable concerns around doing so:
Despite concerns, generative AI has the potential to transform business operations and legal’s ways of working
There’s a distinct lack of regulation around generative AI that seems to surface a variety of legal problems. In-house lawyers are trying to get on top of it all by creating policies that help businesses manage how they interact with these platforms.
But it isn’t easy, and it takes time – which most lean legal teams don’t have. Despite the concerns, generative AI has the potential to transform business operations, and more specifically, legal’s ways of working.
We look at how legal gets involved when introducing generative AI to the business in the following interviews.
Richard Mabey is the CEO and co-founder of Juro.
The pace of development with AI is mind-blowing, and while companies should explore ways to integrate generative AI into their operations, they should also consider (and find ways to avoid) the points of failure.
1. Privacy. If you are buying an AI-enabled tool, go deep on its compliance credentials. Would you be submitting personal data to it, where is it going, what are the protections, and is this compliant?
2. Guardrails. It’s difficult to control how people use a new platform – and it’s definitely on legal’s radar. According to our data, 19 per cent of lawyers we surveyed believe their biggest obstacle with generative AI is making sure there are policies and procedures in place to manage use.
Keeping up with trends is a no-brainer at a fast-paced startup; but it’s important to make sure you’re doing so in a way that helps the business thrive in the long run.
Caroline Iroegbu is the General Counsel at Clarity.
We have a technology ‘task force’, which is a group of individuals who are interested in discussing areas Clarity should focus on to become a technology-enabled agency.
The technology task force explores generative AI, and acts as the driving force behind meaningful change within the business. As GC and sole counsel, it’s important that I’m part of this discussion and that I understand the new technologies we’re exploring – not only for my personal interest, but also to ensure we embrace new ideas in a way that protects our people, clients and the organization.
We’re keen to lean in and embrace the technology, but we need to do so in a transparent and respectful way
There are clearly legal risks with using generative AI so I think it’s important the business is aware of these from the outset and that there are clear guidelines or policies around how we plan to adopt the technology. We need to know:
As well as our internal policies, we also need to be transparent with our clients on how, if at all, we’re going to be using AI in any client work.
We’re keen to lean in and embrace the technology, but we need to do so in a transparent and respectful way.
AI platforms have moved beyond an ask-and-answer format; now there are hundreds of use cases that can benefit legal
There are two elements that in-house lawyers need to think about when considering generative AI:
With the first element, the key is to read up on generative AI and ensure you’re aware of the issues – read articles, attend webinars, and talk to other lawyers.
The second element is trickier. AI platforms have moved beyond an ask-and-answer format; now there are hundreds of use cases that can benefit legal, but I need help myself understanding what these are. I would recommend turning to your networks for content on this topic – like Juro’s community.
Reaching out to law firms can also be useful – they may run webinars or events on the potential of generative AI. Lawyers need to make sure they stay on the front foot or we’re going to get left behind. There’s a lot I still have to learn, but I do believe that generative AI is here to stay.
Patrick Hicks is the General Counsel at Trust & Will.
Our business is dedicated towards creating new ways for individuals to interact through generative AI. We’re experimenting with AI throughout the company:
Our company-wide approach involves taking what we have in place, and finding a way to use AI to make that process more efficient for end users.
These use cases are exploratory right now; we don’t have much in the way of publicly facing AI-enabled systems, but we’re trying to understand what is now possible.
Generative AI is useful as a means to get out of the lawyer’s mind and explain legal concepts in a way that others in the business understand
We’ve found a few opportunities to enable the legal team with generative AI. Some use cases are fairly common, like drafting contracts, inserting provisions, or using AI-enabled tools as an assistant to complete the preliminary work before fine-tuning.
The legal team often has interactions with users outside of legal. We regularly find ourselves in a position of translating complex legal concepts into simple, ordinary language.
Generative AI has been incredibly helpful for this - both to assist us and to do some of the initial work through automation.
It’s useful as a means to get out of the lawyer’s mind and explain legal concepts in a way that others in the business understand.
Sometimes it’s as simple as ‘take this complex legal policy and simplify it’. We then see what the system spits out and progress from there.
We’ll also take an established policy and find new ways for internal team members to interact with it. If a colleague has a question around how many days of leave they are eligible for, they can ask an interface that will read and interpret the policy and find the answer for them.
It’s an interesting way for generative AI to act as the bridge between teams; questions may have previously been fielded by our human resources or our legal team, and are now self-served via an AI-enabled tool.
The fog of rapidly developing technology makes it difficult for in-house legal teams to confirm a solid legal opinion
The primary concern is understandably privacy and data control. As lawyers we must be concerned about privacy, access and control of information, and intellectual property (IP) ownership.
If you were to build a fantastic solution through AI, who owns that solution? Who can replicate it? These are unique situations for legal teams, and legitimate concerns for organizations who don’t want to lose control of their IP.
These concerns are made even more complex by the European Union and the variety of States with individual privacy data control laws - so it's not only a valid concern, but a difficult topic to dive into.
On top of that, the fog of rapidly developing technology makes it difficult for in-house legal teams to confirm a solid legal opinion. The avalanche doesn’t stop, but at Trust & Will we have a philosophy of testing and learning quickly. It’s part of our ethos to look at new technologies and determine what we can do with them.
This doesn't mean that we will do something with it, but it’s useful just to explore and consider what could be done.
I would recommend experimenting with AI-enabled platforms instead of avoiding them entirely - the lawyers waiting today will find themselves five years behind in development when it comes to finally taking the plunge and experimenting with AI. It’s an exaggerated learning curve.
Use fake data for your testing and modelling - it’s easy to generate, and will help overcome concerns around inputting sensitive information into an AI platform. It also allows the business to flip that switch quickly and understand how AI-enabled tools work.
“Do more with less” is an objective legal often has to contend with, when it comes to maximizing use of existing resources to better enable and support the business. How can legal teams get started?
2023’s economic reality has stopped legal headcount growth in its tracks, for most businesses: 75 per cent of respondents say legal headcount is frozen or decreasing, but 73 per cent say their companies are projected to grow up to or more than 2x this year.
Getting the maximum out of existing resource is imperative if legal is to support the business through this period of growth.
When legal has limited budget, low-value work can make it even more difficult for lawyers to focus on high-value, impactful tasks
This year, we asked lawyers about their top three challenges for the year ahead:
It makes sense that legal’s top concerns are around low-value work and limited budget and resource, given the fact that they have to manage an increasing workload with no increase in headcount.
Both these points have been cited as a top three challenge over the past five years of running this report. They tie in strongly with each other – when legal has limited budget, and a frozen or decreasing headcount, low-value work can make it even more difficult for lawyers to focus on high-value, impactful tasks.
Over the past five years, we’ve been through a pandemic that brought the world to a standstill, bank collapses, war, hyperinflation, and more. Yet throughout all this, lawyers are still facing the same problem in their businesses, blocked by low-value work instead of focusing on the high-value, impactful, strategic tasks they were trained to do.
We explore the meaning and impact of low-value work with a spotlight on the legal team at fintech giant Revolut.
Sarah Irwin is the Head of Legal at Tines.
I would define low-value work as work that doesn't really have an impact on the business. Low-value tends to also be low-impact - it’s usually repetitive, routine, and mundane.
The best example of low-value work would be something like reviewing NDAs - that whole process shouldn't exist, and should be automated somehow.
I outsource most of it to an alternative legal solutions provider (ALSP), or I find ways to automate the work. If the workload is process-heavy, repetitive, and doesn’t include the need for legal advice, I outsource as often as I can - that’s how I determine which projects I need to handle, and which ones I can offload.
When it comes to automation, we use contract redlining software. Lawyers have a mountain of work on their plates, so to make time for the work that matters, I strongly advise against defaulting to additional headcount.
Instead, consider leveraging ALSPs and implementing tools to help with automation.
Find out what all-in-one contract automation can do for your business
With low-value work impacting in-house lawyers everywhere, how can technology help? We explore the potential of automating a common pain point that legal has to handle: contracts.
Contracts are front-of-mind for in-house legal teams in 2023. But despite 39 per cent of respondents implementing a contracts platform recently, only 22 per cent are actually satisfied with their contract process.
Contracts managed through manual processes or legacy CLM platforms are painful to agree, for various reasons. If businesses agree and manage contracts using a fragmented process that involves multiple tools, such as Word, PDF and email, it’s easy to understand why the workflow is unsatisfactory for legal and the teams they enable.
This manual process is usually:
Usually, legal teams will implement a contract management platform to resolve these above issues. According to respondents, the reasons for implementing a platform to handle contracts included:
Despite this, the majority of our respondents are unsatisfied with the process they have in place.
Legacy contracts platforms still aren’t agile enough, and the process of purchasing a solution to actually using it takes far too long
Legacy CLMs are an upgrade from the manual process of Word, emails and PDFs, but they still have their downsides. Most legacy CLMs have a file-centric process, which means that files still bounce between systems, creating a lack of visibility and holes in data.
Legacy CLMs are also uncollaborative, inflexible, and lead to siloed information. On top of this, a whopping 85 per cent of respondents said that implementation took anywhere between one and six months, with 40 per cent taking longer than three months.
This could be a reason why lawyers are experiencing ‘platform fatigue’ when it comes to adopting new tech – legacy contracts platforms still aren’t agile enough, and the process of purchasing a solution to actually using it takes far too long.
Find out how lawyers and the teams they enable can benefit instead from all-in-one contract automation platforms like Juro. We’ll also look at what our community members would want from an ideal contract workflow in our following interviews.
Dajana Eberlin is the General Counsel at Jimdo.
You need to make sure that you keep a holistic view. Ask yourself: what are the biggest levers to improve overall efficiency and effectiveness, not only in the legal department, but across the whole organization?
If you’re buying to enable sales, for example, you need to make sure the reps are in favour of the solution - but you also need to choose a tool which can be leveraged by people operations and procurement.
Vendors need to ensure they understand the growth stage of the company they’re approaching.
A more mature company may have well-established workflows between procurement, legal, privacy and security teams. They may have proven processes in place, and would prefer to have those systems mirrored in their contracts platform.
Vendors need to be able to cater to these situations and advise on process improvements at the same time - it’s a tricky balance.
The human factor is what makes contract processes really successful, so in an ideal world, all involved parties are meeting deadlines and delivering on their tasks.
Brittany Heilmann is the Legal & Compliance Manager at ChartMogul.
There are a few points that would make this process easier:
It’s difficult for lawyers to present that data if we’re implementing a CLM for the first time, so we often lean on the vendor
The more we can demonstrate that the CLM will actually be a time-saver, the better. Usually people in finance can be forward thinking, so presenting the return on investment is a successful way to promote the solution.
It’s difficult for lawyers to present that data if we’re implementing a CLM for the first time, so we often lean on the vendor - if a CLM provider has case studies available, or time-saving metrics, it’s really helpful for us when convincing finance.
The entire contract lifecycle would be automated, and enable different areas of the business to self-serve on 90 per cent of our contracts. My ideal process would also:
Contract management gets the most cumbersome when there's customization involved - in a perfect world everyone would agree on standard terms, but having a flexible platform that offers insights on custom terms would also be great.
By nature people don’t often like lawyers, so anything that places us in the business’ good books is a win!
Find out how Juro can help you empower your business with a collaborative, flexible platform for creating, agreeing and managing contracts. Get in touch here.
Join our private community of 1000+ in-house lawyers at scaling companies for exclusive events, perks and content.