GenAI in Legal: Threat vs. Opportunity

Our latest breakfast roundtable brought together leaders to discuss the impacts of Gen AI on the legal industry.

With Gen AI under the spotlight across the Legal industry, Senior leaders at our latest Roundtable event averaged a general maturity rating for their firm of 5.9. It proved firm-wide AI strategies remain undefined and initial concepts and use cases have largely been confined to Business Development, Document Automation and Review areas, with a further internal and external use cases developing. At the event, several key AI discussion points were identified, as detailed below.

Product in Legal: Build vs Buy

The future of AI (and Product) within Legal and the decision of Build vs Buy has been a prominent conversation with respect to generating an AI roadmap. There seems to be polarity around the best way of progressing Product.

A journey to internal Product capability?

Many Senior leaders are forward-thinking in their approach to Product and Legal firms and have identified opportunities to build Products internally that are bespoke and specific to the Legal community. We’ve seen rise to some exciting work over the last 12 months with fleetGPT at Dentons, a tool focused on content generation, research, and identification of relevant documentation, recently launched.

To support the growth of Product solutions internally, Andrew Edginton at Gowling WLG, mentioned out of the box AI tools are limited by vendors. Is there a future where Product warrants a function run by a Chief Product Officer?

In comparison to a survey in 2018, there has been a 20% decrease in the use of external organisations for Legal innovation with the rise of internal development set to continue. From the conversation with the Senior leaders around the table, it is clear there is an exciting buzz about the opportunity, and it will be an exciting topic to follow.

Law firms as a Service not a Technology firm

However, it was mentioned by Nigel Lang of Fieldfisher and reiterated across the group on several occasions that Law firms are service companies not Technology companies. As of May 2023, only 27% of innovation is conducted in-house by firms, with the majority still engaging with external technology solution providers.

We are seeing across the industry a lot of buzz around technology providers, with Litera, Microsoft, and Harvey all being mentioned during our discussion, as providers of more bespoke Legal products for firms. Does the introduction of more bespoke solutions to Practices of Law prevent the necessity of internal capability development?

Necessity to streamline: Rationalisation

Reducing a fee-earners windows

According to a McKinsey study, 22% of a lawyer’s job can be automated. It was agreed around the table that rationalization of a firms Legal Technology stack is essential to the automation of fee-earner’s work, and therefore the development of AI.

Tara Waters of Ashurst made the point that streamlining a lawyers technology stack, reduces their internet windows and makes change easier. It is for this reason that firms are considering the biggest vendor ecosystems such as Intapp or Microsoft, and their latest offerings such as CoPilot, even if they weigh in as unspecialized or expensive.

It will be interesting to understand how necessary integration and the technology stack is to the introduction of an AI roadmap.

Ownership: Developing the Practice Group model?

A wheel and spoke model is widely operated across law firms with business services centralized and supporting all Practice groups. Nick Roberts of Clyde & Co, mentioned that as technology takes an ever greater prominence in delivery of legal services it is essential that Practice groups are more directly accountable for ensuring a return on technology and innovation investment. By assuming direct accountability for delivering the benefits of investments, each Practice Group is more focused on driving faster adoption and delivering the promised outcome.

Is there a future where Innovation and AI development is sat within Practice Groups?

Many thanks to Kate Stonestreet (Baker McKenzie), Ronan Hanrahan (Eversheds Sutherland), Nick Roberts (Clyde & Co), Tara Waters (Ashurst), Andrew Edginton (Gowling WLG), Nigel Lang (Fieldfisher), Gerard Frith (Taylor Wessing) for joining us at the event.

Oliver Manlow -

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