At every legal operations and technology conference, presenters talk about artificial intelligence (AI), vendors offer information about AI solutions at their booths, and attendees look for opportunities to meet their challenges using AI-enabled solutions. It’s become clear that AI is increasing in importance within the legal industry, so Wolters Kluwer’s ELM Solutions wanted to find out how legal professionals feel about this development and what they expect of it in the future.
In late spring of this year, we released a survey seeking to find out more about attitudes toward AI technology among legal operations professionals. The results show good reason to expect the growing trend to continue. Overwhelmingly – at 81% – respondents believe AI is creating more opportunity in the legal industry. A little more than half are still exploring how they might be able to use AI, and just over a quarter feel it’s important but haven’t yet begun their research. Eight percent reported that they are already leveraging AI in their legal operations. My advice for GCs and legal operations professionals investigating AI is that it’s important to focus on the problem, not the technology. Investigate to learn whether AI can be applied to ease a challenge or solve a problem; don’t just look for ways to implement the technology. As you go through the research, make sure providers have hard data on what their solutions can do for you. Promises of great ROI should be backed up by information about the results of their current clients or, even better, realistic projections based on your own operations data.
A majority of legal professionals agreed on what represents the biggest positive impact of AI, with more than half, 59%, looking to AI to allow lawyers to focus on high-value strategic work. However, 29% said they think that additional insights from data and analytics are the most valuable aspect. Improved efficiency of routine work tasks is seen as the greatest advantage by a substantial 18% of respondents. Many of these improvements can also have secondary advantages. For example, insights into problematic billing behavior can trigger conversations with law firms that result in better outside counsel alignment and relationships.
We also asked respondents to zoom in and think about the task-level benefits of AI. The results were somewhat divided. Legal outcome prediction is the most common task, cited at 30%. But a significant number of people are more focused on using AI for invoice review (22%) and risk assessment (17%). There are so many legal operations tasks that can be helped by the addition of AI that I expect to see many more applications released over the next few years. Going forward, with years of benchmark data available to provide a solid foundation, AI tools could now be developed to make suggestions about appropriate budgets, or the best types of AFAs for a particular matter, and many other matter-related decisions.
Whatever the specific uses each legal department may have for AI, the overwhelming majority of legal professionals surveyed expect the technology to impact their day-to-day jobs over the next five years. Not one respondent said that they expect no impact at all in that time, and only 14% said there would be “not very much” impact. 86% expect to be greatly or somewhat impacted day-to-day.
I’ve spoken with lawyers who are worried about the possibility of AI technology taking over too much of their function and replacing them, but this shouldn’t be a concern. There is no AI technology sophisticated enough to replace a lawyer, but AI is a great way to make lawyers more effective by gaining efficiency and productivity and driving better business outcomes. Rather than replacing them, AI makes good lawyers better.
Given how strong an impact legal professionals expect AI to have, it is not surprising that so many GCs and legal operations managers are researching to find the right use of AI for their department’s needs. If AI is coming, with a potential for huge impact to the legal department, everyone wants to make sure they get it right and extract the best possible value from it.
To learn more about how AI can help you meet your goals, download our free whitepaper The Role of Artificial Intelligence in Legal Operations.