16 June 2024

Harnessing the power of AI for the legal industry

Legal teams that harness AI to empower and augment their services, rather than substitute them, can achieve a clear advantage in an increasingly competitive market, says Greg Coates of Litera

The past few months have put artificial intelligence (AI) at the heart of all innovation. The mass adoption of ChatGPT has led governments to rethink their legal frameworks for AI, from the EU AI Act through to UK Prime Minister’s Rishi Sunak stating that this is an opportunity for the UK to take the lead on the regulation of AI. 

One point that has become clear is that AI regulation – legally weighing the risks and benefits – is essential and will create a framework so all industries can capitalise on the power of AI to improve productivity and deliver more value. As lawyers determine the future of AI, there is also an opportunity in AI to modernise the legal world. A laggard when it comes to technology adoption, the traditionally risk-averse law industry could well be one of the biggest beneficiaries from AI. 

In fact, Goldman Sachs recently published a report predicting that generative AI could potentially be used to automate almost half (44%) of all manual legal tasks in the US and Europe. In a recent Litera study, 83% of UK lawyers surveyed agreed that AI is becoming a standard part of the M&A due diligence process, and 91% stated that the usage of AI will only continue to increase. 

In short, AI could help free up time for lawyers to focus on real value: using their expertise to help the judicial system keep businesses and people safe. In practice, what does this mean? Here are a few ways AI can transform the legal world for the better. 

Refocusing on high-value counsel to clients 

Technology solutions that implement AI to maximise effectiveness, optimise accuracy, user experience, and verifiability can help narrow the scope of what a legal expert truly needs to do and frees up lawyers to concentrate, create and collaborate. This allows them to spend more time on their expertise and counsel, and less on admin tasks. Ultimately, high-value counsel is about solving issues that clients need answers to. Clients want critical thinking and risk-based options from their lawyers with the expectation that they will use technology and data analysis to support their conclusions. 

Turning AI into a live assistant  

There are challenges when it comes to ensuring that the data in which AI tools rely on are properly organised, accurate and current to be of any value to a firm. This means the information repository must be as dynamic as the technology scouring it for answers. The best law firm datasets come from combining a lawyer’s knowledge and collective intelligence gathered by AI. Therefore, law firms looking to deploy AI as part of their legaltech arsenal should ensure they’re not only relying on unreliable data. Instead, they should look to combine the machine learning ability of AI models with the collective intelligence of generations of lawyers to document and improve their responses to cases. 

It is important to reiterate that AI currently cannot replace lawyers; however, it gives great lawyers the tools to excel in their day-to-day work. Clients don’t want to have to talk to a chatbot in order to communicate, and rightly so, but there is interest in finding solutions that can complete menial tasks. AI can enhance and improve the way lawyers go about these tasks to create a combination of the lawyer as the expert and AI as the lawyer’s assistant.

Setting a strong foundation for the future

At Litera, we have spent the past decade exploring how AI can be harnessed to improve the ways the legal industry operates. As the technology underpinning AI continues to evolve and becomes more sophisticated, it’s hard to predict how far it can go. 

What is certain however, is that it will not eliminate the breadth and depth of legal reasoning that talented legal teams provide and apply to complex matters. Critical thinking and individually tailored risk-based counsel are the services that clients want from their lawyers, with the expectation that they will use technology and data analysis to support their conclusions. In such a rigorous industry, this will and should never be compromised. AI can help enhance lawyers’ administrative tasks – but the world will still need lawyers to deliver expert judgement on complex legal matters. 

Legal teams that harness the advancements of AI to empower and augment the services they deliver, rather than substitute, can gain and maintain a clear advantage in an increasingly competitive market. The results will speak for themselves. 

About the Author

Greg Coates is Vice President of AI at Litera. 

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