How are legal professionals adopting AI technologies?

Lawyers believe lack of IT advocacy, collaboration preventing implementation of new technologies, finds report

How are legal professionals adopting AI technologies?

The legal profession seems to be slow in adopting artificial intelligence (AI) and other new technologies, even though many lawyers believe that technology is essential in meeting the profession’s needs today, according to a report.

Overall, 91% of legal professionals believe that technology is critical or important to meet legal strategy, objectives, and challenges to optimize operations, reduce costs, and improve risk management, reports IT company OpenText.

Specifically, 60% agree that AI would free up time to perform higher value work and 55% say it would boost the productivity of in-house legal teams.

How artificial intelligence will affect the practice of law 

Almost half (49%) of all respondents believe AI could assist with the automation and simplification of time-consuming and error prone manual processes, and 41% see automation of manual tasks as the biggest opportunity for productivity improvements for their legal departments.

In a previous report, Thomson Reuters notes: “As automation and AI solutions make completing traditional legal tasks easier, it could become more appropriate for such tasks to be completed by a paralegal or more junior professional. Using this tactic at scale could potentially increase the profit margin, enabling alternative and cheaper ways of becoming a fee-generator in the firm.”

Chris O’Leary, managing editor at Thomson Reuters, echoes this sentiment. He says: “Consider AI as a means to better employ your skills and talents as a lawyer, and to improve your prospects at your law firm. If AI eliminates much time-consuming work that’s been an inescapable part of the legal industry, lawyers can shine brighter than ever before.” 

Canadian employers in the information technology (IT) space are increasingly tapping into AI, according to a previous IBM report.

The changing legal profession

The problem, however, is that the legal profession seems to be slow to adopt, finds OpenText’s survey of 289 legal professionals – 74% of whom are located in North America – between July and August 2023.

Specifically, 40% of legal professionals indicate that a lack of IT advocacy and collaboration is preventing the implementation of new technologies, such as AI-based legal tech solutions to modernize legal departments.

This is the case even though the technological change is changing the legal profession itself.

Nearly three-quarters (72%) of all respondents state that the Chief Information Officer (CIO) now plays a critical or important role in the delivery of legal innovation strategies. And 69% say their responsibilities as legal professionals has expanded to include other risk areas, including cybersecurity, data privacy, and risk management as having the biggest impact on their role.

Compliance monitoring (63%), data privacy management (47%) and cybersecurity planning (36%) are the top responsibilities respondents say are new or critical focus areas.

AI adoption must be a team effort, according to one expert from IBM.

"The role of the general counsel is evolving rapidly to meet new demands and to thrive in the digital age. Traditionally slower to embrace innovative technologies, now, the legal industry must digitally transform by adopting tools, such as AI, to successfully embody its new role as an influential C-Suite strategic partner," says Michael F. Acedo, chief legal officer, corporate secretary and EVP at OpenText. 

"By adopting such technologies, in-house legal teams can transform themselves from perceived corporate bottleneck and cost center to a proactive, agile leader spearheading the enterprise digital transformation journey."

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