What does generative AI mean for the legal sector?

What does generative AI mean for the legal sector?

Generative AI tools such as ChatGPT are entering law practices, promising more efficiency and less time spent on rote tasks. But risks remain around accuracy, ethics and privacy.

The legal sector has typically been characterized by a cautious, conservative approach to tech adoption. But emerging generative AI tools such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT are quietly gaining traction among attorneys.

Although ChatGPT and other powerful large language models are relatively new, they’ve already seen surprisingly widespread adoption in the legal sector. More than 40% of attorneys surveyed by legal data and analytics company LexisNexis said they currently use or plan to use generative AI in their legal work, according to an August 2023 report.

“It’s been probably the most interesting 12 months in my 20-year legal tech career,” said Cheryl Wilson Griffin, CEO of Legal Tech Consultants, which advises law firms and other legal clients on technology issues.

The evolving role of generative AI in law

The term generative AI refers to sophisticated machine learning algorithms that can produce new content, such as text, images or code, after training on enormous amounts of data.

Generative AI’s ability to create highly specific content in response to users’ queries has piqued interest within the legal industry. In the aforementioned LexisNexis report, nearly all lawyers surveyed (89%) had heard of generative AI such as ChatGPT, and 41% had tried out a generative AI tool themselves. But historically, lawyers haven’t always been quick to adopt new technologies.

Jake Heller is an attorney and CEO of legal AI company Casetext, acquired by Thomson Reuters in November 2023. He grew up in Silicon Valley and started coding at a young age. Upon becoming a lawyer, Heller found himself frustrated by the lackluster state of legal technology, particularly juxtaposed with consumer counterparts such as food delivery apps.

“It felt really imbalanced to me that the technology to support you for finding Thai restaurants was super good and the technology for saving businesses, saving people from prison and so on was so backwards and bad,” he said.

Although legal still has something of a reputation for outdated systems and resistance to change, generative AI has been harder for the sector to ignore than other tech advancements of recent decades, such as cloud or big data analytics. The release of ChatGPT marked a significant shift in lawyers’ attitudes toward AI — something Heller described as a “moment of awakening.”

“I think the thing that’s been really interesting about this, and different than other technologies that have tried to disrupt or change legal, is that there’s a consumer side,” Griffin said.

Like Heller, Troy Doucet, founder of legal AI startup AI.law, found his way to legal tech through his background as an attorney. Law firms like Doucet’s, which focuses on foreclosure defense and consumer protection, often feel pressure to maximize efficiency due to the economic challenges facing small firms.

You can read the full article at TechTarget.