Generative AI: The Hot Topic on Every Lawyer’s Mind

April 23rd, 2024

Generative AI: The Hot Topic on Every Lawyer’s Mind

Generative AI: The Hot Topic on Every Lawyer’s Mind

POSTED IN Zen & the Art of Legal Networking

There’s only one answer that my lawyers give when I ask them what they’re curious about when it comes to the practice of law, and that’s generative AI.

We’re not the only ones talking about it. Last year, the Thomson Reuters Institute surveyed more than 440 lawyers in the US, UK, and Canada, and they found that lawyers are talking about it too, and have some very definite opinions.

[A] large majority (82%) of those surveyed said they believe that ChatGPT and generative AI can be readily applied to legal work; and a slightly smaller majority (51%) said that ChatGPT and generative AI should be applied to legal work.

ChatGPT & Generative AI within Law Firms

Whether or not your firm is diving headfirst into using AI or is just dipping a toe into the water, there are three things that I have been ruminating on when it comes to the use of generative AI and the law.

Someone at your firm is already using it: The firm itself may not have adopted generative AI technology yet, but I can almost guarantee that someone at the firm has tested out ChatGPT in some way for work purposes. For that reason, if you don’t already have an AI policy (I’m going to assume that the majority of firms DO already), it’s worth putting one into place. Although many people are already tired of hearing about AI, it’s not going anywhere soon, so much like we did with social media, let’s not put our heads in the sand and hope that ignoring it solves the problem. Proactivity is the name of the game here.

Similarly, even if your firm has a policy against the use of AI, lawyers need to have an understanding of the risks and opportunities for AI, because your clients will be using it: you’ll need to be able to intelligently advise them on the risks to their business – not because I think businesses should be afraid to use generative AI; quite the opposite, in fact. However, I firmly believe that lawyers are essential business advisors and part of that role is the ability to advise on business decisions, and the use of AI is one of those decisions.

Finally, AI is going to fundamentally change the way that law firms train young lawyers. We have already seen a tremendous shift in the way that young lawyers are being trained over the last five years due to the pandemic and the increase in remote working. This will only be exacerbated by generative AI. There has been much hand-wringing about AI and wondering about jobs being replaced by machines.

But we’ve seen this before with any technological revolution. When telephones were invented, jobs were replaced, and new jobs were created. When email was invented, jobs were replaced, and new jobs were created. It will happen again. I am not at all worried that lawyers will soon be extinct. I am only curious about the ways in which we will train young lawyers to gain the level of sophisticated expertise that is necessary to provide clients with the service that they require.

The thing that I know will not change is the importance of relationships. Humans are social beings – whether that happens online or in person. We may eventually interact with machines, but it will not take the place of human engagements; that was abundantly clear following the worst of the pandemic when we were all so grateful to return to seeing each other again in real life. I’m excited to see what’s to come and to use AI as another tool in our toolbox.

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