AI is changing the way knowledge management teams think about legal work

Sabrina Rosado
July 18, 2023

As AI tech quickly evolves, its adoption by legal organizations has led to concerns over its risks and what it means for the future of law. Some include the potential shift in law firm dynamics, its impact on billable hours, and overall efficiency.

Despite this, law professionals are feeling positive about the ways generative AI can change the legal field. A report by the Thomson Reuters Institute found that 82% of the corporate attorneys surveyed think generative AI can be applied to legal work. Yet more than half said that this tech should actually be applied.

Time and time again, revolutionary tech such as this has been met with pushback and skepticism. But based on the stats, it seems that law pros are ready to embrace this inevitable change. In this article, we’ll walk you through how generative AI tools can support and improve legal workflows. We’ll also cover how knowledge management teams can analyze this tech and go about buying it.

Shifting Law Firm Dynamics

As we mentioned, technological advancements and legal innovations have been faced with doubt before. Therefore, it’s not surprising that the recent adoption of generative AI has stirred up controversy among legal professionals, who are still unsure of its potential impact on law firm dynamics. While their concerns are valid, generative AI tech usage in legal spaces shouldn’t be written off just yet.

We’re currently at a point in time where tech is evolving rapidly, advancing the way everything  is being done. AI is just the latest in this trend, and it’s already transforming the legal sphere. For instance, it’s changing how associates research and obtain information – associates who once might have faced tedious “search” onboarding to access firm intel are now learning how to craft good prompts for GPT platforms. Along with this, it’s shifting how we think about drafting and negotiating contracts. Research suggests that clients and their legal teams don’t get as much face time with each other as desired. By decreasing the amount of time spent on researching or other administrative tasks, generative AI tools allow for more time spent interacting with clients and understanding the nuances of a case. All of this results in increased satisfaction and firm wins.    

Generative AI can empower lawyers to do their best work with tools that make that work easier for them. Law firms with employees who can get their work done efficiently will perform better and experience greater happiness as a whole. Data shows that employees’ wellbeing is associated with higher productivity, satisfaction, and better firm performance.

Thanks to generative AI tools (such as DraftWise), this change can contribute to the growth of law firms and generate positive outcomes for them. As we’ll touch on in further sections, AI is already changing the way work is done at firms and makes a profit for them by lessening the drudgery from unnecessary tasks.

A Change To Business Models

Some lawyers have expressed concerns over the change that generative AI poses to business models traditionally used in the legal industry, most notably with billable hours. The billable hour model became the standard in law firms dating back to the 1960s, when consultants promoted it as a way to increase profits. But while it's the preferred model to drive revenue, it’s long been challenged by evolving technology and has faced several criticisms, such as contributing to burnout culture. If that’s the case, then AI’s ability to possibly reduce billable hours may not be a bad thing.

Although its goal isn’t to completely alter the billable hour model, generative AI tech can assist in completing lower-value tasks so that more important ones are given greater attention. It can achieve this by eliminating “ghost hours,” or tasks performed by associates that can or cannot be billed to a client. This leaves room for firms to prioritize anything that will help them attain greater profitability and strengthen relationships with their clients.

Clearly, the adoption of this tech won’t replace the human element in performing legal work. Instead, it’ll free up time for associates to focus on heavier aspects of it without the added stress of working longer than they need to.  

Efficiency With Legal Work

One of the major questions surrounding generative AI is its overall efficiency when applied to legal work. For starters, this tech’s effect on productivity levels is promising. When in use, generative AI takes away from the toil of drafting legal contracts, agreements, and other documents. Lawyers can use their firm or organization’s standards for writing, databases, and other useful sources as input to ensure that its output produces confident and, most importantly, accurate responses. This process is called “grounding.” As this Lawyer Monthly article writes, answers or content produced by generative AI that’s rooted in “quality content” will be more precise and text-based.

Some are worried about the problems that may occur from it, such as “hallucinations,” or confidently fabricated responses. This is a serious issue, particularly for lawyers, as falsifying information can lead to major consequences. Luckily, technology is rapidly advancing and providers (like DraftWise) are seeking out solutions that limit the potential for hallucinations.

"Law firms may not want to share their ‘secret sauce' with third parties and must comply with client requirements around data handling. Open AI and public GPT technologies are not an option for everyone," shared DraftWise co-founder and CTO, Emre Ozen, in a recent press release, "The DraftWise AI is built on a secure LLM applied to firm data to produce curated and substantiated results. This approach is also differentiated from other LLM offerings because it respects the ethical walls, access controls, and client data restrictions that law firms have to comply with. This is inherently more secure than using public data and open AI, and it is far more useful in the contract editing and negotiating process."

The AI solution evaluation checklist

Now that we’ve covered the benefits of using generative AI in law, we can go over how individual law firms and organizations can adopt this technology for themselves. Below are a few considerations that knowledge management teams should weigh while evaluating and acquiring new AI tools:

Understand your security needs and risks

Maybe IT has clearly outlined the do’s and don’t’s of purchasing and installing new software, but more likely than not, AI software that integrates with a firm’s data will require a particularly strenuous review. Speak with the team early on and bring their concerns, questions, and requirements to the conversation with your provider.

Think about change management

What protocols or policies are in place for new software or tech? How quickly can you roll out new tech to an individual practice group? Understand your firm’s change management as you design the onboarding process for your new software.

Don’t be afraid to ask for a trial

Get to know the tech before you buy. Many providers on the market are really good at telling you what they do, but fewer are able (or willing) to show you their tech in action. A demo is a helpful education tool, but a trial or live demo with relevant data is even better.

Compare and seek out the best option for your firm

Not every technology solution on the market is the best option for your firm. Come to the table with a nuanced understanding of your firm’s needs.

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