5 Effective Ways Law Firms Are Using AI Today
Like most industries, law firms have been impacted by the recent artificial intelligence (AI) boom, and are drawn to the technology’s promise of delivering significant efficiencies and time savings. However, in this highly regulated industry driven by client service, there is an awareness that as lawyers adopt AI, guardrails must be put in place to ensure the software is truly adding value for clients.
Given the fast-moving nature of this technology, use cases are evolving each day, and while some law firms are experimenting with ChatGPT, others have already found specific and actionable ways to leverage AI that have streamlined their processes and operations. Nonetheless, firms should keep security and ethical questions in mind to drive their decisions.
AI-powered e-discovery tools have been available for a few years, and are increasingly shifting the process of discovery from paralegals’ hands into the domain of algorithms capable of scanning large databases of potentially relevant material based on keywords and patterns of relevancy.
Implementing AI significantly reduces the time and cost of e-discovery and document review, enabling lawyers to focus their efforts on the most relevant case data and add value for clients. Yet, by eliminating much of the work typically carried out by paralegals and junior staff, these new tools cause for debate on when to leverage technology versus humans.
Document drafting is one of the most novel use cases of AI within law firms, enabled by the apparition of generative AI tools such as ChatGPT. Anyone can feed ChatGPT with data and prompt it to draft a document. While these AI-generated documents must still be checked and improved by humans, this significantly speeds up the process, allowing firms to deliver quicker results for clients. As legal generative AI tools appear, trained specifically on law firm data, software’s ability to generate accurate documents is increasing.
However, law firms must take caution when sharing information with large language models such as ChatGPT. Data fed to the algorithm will be utilized to inform conversations with other users, and there is potential for data leakages. Firms are therefore setting various policies on large language models, with some allowing the use of ChatGPT only for non-sensitive internal work, such as drafting emails. Others are circumventing the problem by leveraging their own internal models, which have access only to their own data, guaranteeing a higher level of security.
Some firms are utilizing AI-powered contract review software, enabling them to speed up the process and rapidly identify potentially problematic clauses for their clients. These software algorithms, trained on lawyers’ own contract reviews, can both flag clauses for review, as well as suggest modifications, but always leave the last step to human intelligence.
While embedding AI into processes, such as contract reviews, can enable firms to deliver results for clients much faster, ensuring transparency is vital. Clients should always be made aware when AI is utilized for their work, and some argue that the client should have the choice between their firm using an algorithm or reviewing their contracts manually. Lawyers must have a strong understanding of the software, and the ability to explain to clients how it is being used and its potential risks. This is important because clients should always be made aware when AI is utilized for their work, and they should have the choice between their firm using an algorithm or reviewing their contracts manually. By having a strong understanding of the software, lawyers can effectively communicate with their clients and address any concerns or questions they may have about the use of AI in their legal matters.
Case Law Research
Recent legal headlines have shown that some lawyers have been asking ChatGPT to identify case law for them. Attorneys from a small local firm in NY were recently reprimanded for submitting an AI-generated brief which cited non-existent case law. OpenAI’s tools are far from being the only recourse available for identifying case law, and there are AI-enabled “legal assistants” appearing all over the market. These “legal assistants” promise to identify cases that match the legal issue at hand, or present relevant fact patterns, statuses or outcomes.
While the potential time savings here are huge, these recent news stories are a reminder that lawyers must take caution and results should always be checked by a human. The risks of inaccuracy are real, especially when utilizing large language models such as ChatGPT. For this reason, some firms have chosen to ban the use of ChatGPT, and only leverage specific legal AI software. This reduces the risk of inaccuracy; however, even these legally trained algorithms still require humans to verify their work to deliver accurate results and guarantee excellent client service.
As discussed in our recent podcast, back-office use cases of AI, like process automation, have been around for years in settings like IT and finance. However, the significant increase in the magnitude of data and cross-collaboration is thanks to widespread cloud adoption and advances in data science. Today, AI-powered automation helps law firms to streamline their internal processes and eliminate manual processes, such as data entry. Process automation can lead to increased productivity, stronger security, cost savings, reduced errors and greater operational efficiency.
The above examples provide real-world ways in which law firms can utilize AI technology to add value for clients and improve their service. As artificial intelligence and deep learning continues to evolve, law firms will need to keep up to speed, because while some security and ethical questions remain unanswered, the efficiencies are revolutionizing the industry and are already within grasp.
Cherry Bekaert’s Digital Advisory practice is prepared to bring advanced tools, strategy, frameworks and expertise to help you start your AI journey much more rapidly and efficiently. If you are interested in tapping into the power of AI, we would love to help you ensure you have a strong foundation and strategy in place so that tools like AI can succeed. Reach out to us to learn more about our readiness process to establish a successful AI roadmap.