How do lawyers really feel about AI?

September 11, 2023
Do lawyers think AI will transform the way they work, and are they optimistic about using it? Find out in this article.

Lawyers naturally have a lot of mixed emotions about AI. Many are excited about the possibility of increased productivity and a better work-life balance. Others are worried that AI threatens their jobs, or invites risk.

The fog of rapidly developing technology makes it difficult for in-house legal teams to confirm a solid legal opinion - Patrick Hicks, General Counsel, Trust & Will

In this guide, we'll explore how lawyers really feel about AI. We'll explore whether they think it will transform the way they work, and how they're using it within their businesses already.

Do lawyers believe that AI will transform the way they work?

There's been a lot of discussion around how AI will change the legal profession forever, with Goldman Sachs estimating that a whopping 44 per cent of legal tasks could be automated using AI.

But do lawyers agree?

Well, it seems like those doing the legal tasks daily do agree that legal AI will change the way they work, with a survey by LexisNexis’ revealing that 47 per cent of respondents believe AI will have either a "significant or transformative impact" on legal practice, and a further 45 percent believe that it will have “some impact”. 

Thought leaders have been sharing ideas of what this transformation might look like, with hopes of increased productivity, reduced admin work, and more time to focus on higher-value tasks. Their predictions seem accurate, too.

When we asked in-house lawyers how they were using generative AI in their operations already, there were plenty of use cases that allowed legal to shift low-value work off their plates.

These use cases covered everything from building an AI assistant to answer FAQs from colleagues to the use of AI contract management tools that help them agree contracts faster and more efficiently.

The recurring theme is that lawyers want to do more with less. Legal AI tools can empower them to do just that.

Are lawyers concerned about the use of generative AI?

Legal teams have typically been slow to adopt generative AI, though. In fact, our recent Tech GC Report revealed that 45 per cent of lawyers we surveyed were hesitant to jump in and start using generative AI

When asked to share the reasons behind their reluctance, they shared the following concerns:

  • Cybersecurity and confidentiality: “we don’t know how secure these platforms are, and that’s a concern when disclosing sensitive information”
  • Privacy: “we don’t know who can access the information we send through a generative AI platform”
  • A lack of guardrails: “we don’t have policies or guidelines in place to help colleagues use it as effectively and safely as possible. It’s difficult to control”
  • A lack of information or experience: “we’re not sure how to make the most of these tools”
  • Platform fatigue: “we’ve just implemented other tools within legal and need a pause from evaluating new software - we’re a lean team and the demands on legal are high”

Research by Thomson Reuters found law firm lawyers to be even more cautious, with 62 per cent of the lawyers surveyed saying that they have concerns over the use of ChatGPT and generative AI at work. 

They echoed the same concerns as in-house lawyers, though. They’re worried about the possibility of hallucinations and concerns about client confidentiality, among other things.

These concerns are all completely valid. They're also to be expected from a profession with a relatively low risk appetite. However, these risks aren't deterring legal teams from using AI altogether. As we'll discuss shortly, legal teams are finding ways to defend against the risks associated with AI instead.

"We’re keen to lean in and embrace the technology, but we need to do so in a transparent and respectful way" - Caroline Iroegbu, General Counsel, Clarity

Are lawyers willing to use AI? 

Despite their concerns, lawyers are willing to use AI, but they want to proceed with caution.

When we asked in-house lawyers about their plans to use generative AI, more than half (55 per cent) said that their legal team is using, or is planning to use generative AI. 

The adoption by high-growth companies – and especially by their in-house legal teams – seems 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 pressure is prompting lawyers in businesses and law firms to reflect on what they can safely automate with an AI-enabled tool, and what measures they need to put in place first to make AI roll-out a success.

How do lawyers think AI should be applied within the legal industry?

As part of our recent Tech GC Report, we asked Patrick Hicks, General Counsel at Trust & Will, how his legal team was using generative AI safely. Here's what he said:

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" - Patrick Hicks, General Counsel, Trust & Will

This emphasis on using AI to complete the preliminary, manual admin tasks that legal teams often find themselves buried in is key.

When we think about legal automation, too many people assume that the AI will automate processes from end-to-end, rendering lawyers redundant as a result. This is a big misconception and an even bigger mistake.

AI should be used to complement lawyers' skills and knowledge. It should be used to pick up the lower-value tasks, enabling them to focus on the high-value ones instead.

Contract management processes are a good use case, for example. This is because there are lots of opportunities to automate admin-heavy tasks like contract automation and review.

Using AI contract tools and AI legal assistants means that legal teams can focus on the parts of the contract process that require more expertise and really move the needle, like negotiations, or drafting more complex contracts with a higher contract value.

Want to join the lawyers already using AI to automate manual processes?

As we mentioned already, AI stands to give legal teams a competitive advantage if they use it successfully. Meanwhile, those that shy away from AI risk falling behind.

To find out more about how AI can be applied to streamline routine legal admin, check out this guide to ChatGPT for lawyers.

If you want to find out more about how AI can improve your contract processes and empower you to agree contracts up to ten times faster, hit the button below to speak to a specialist or check out this guide to AI contract tools.

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