In an era where technological advances are reshaping industries, the legal sector is no exception. The quickly advancing applications of Generative AI to the legal industry marks a significant leap forward. Law firms, in-house legal teams, incumbent legal technology providers and new upstarts are all grappling with the potential impact and figuring out how to prioritise their time and resources to capture the opportunity that has presented itself.
Legatics is a legal transaction management platform that has been innovating within the legal sector for the best part of the past decade. Legatics continues to be technology agnostic, not seeing itself as an AI company, instead looking at the way in which the legal industry could improve its processes for managing legal transactions through automation and collaboration via the use of technology (Generative AI or otherwise).
As a former corporate lawyer and now executive within a legal technology company, I have seen the industry evolve firsthand and I am excited by this current Generative AI wave. However, I also see limitations in which aspects of the legal sector it has the ability to meaningfully innovate over the short-term.
Understanding Generative AI
Generative AI, a subset of artificial intelligence, refers to systems that can autonomously produce content, such as text, images, or even code. It leverages machine learning techniques to understand patterns, learn from data, and generate new outputs.
In the legal context, Generative AI introduces a potential game-changer by accelerating the time it takes to complete tasks such as legal research, summarisation, legal document creation and the automation of several other repetitive tasks such as decision making and interactions between law firms and their clients.
While the technology is still nascent, it has the potential to allow legal professionals to focus on more complex and strategic aspects of their work. However, while there is general consensus in the industry regarding the areas where Generative AI will have the most impact, for other areas, such as legal transaction management, the potential impact is less certain.
The most immediate impact for Generative AI on the legal industry
There are still several challenges with Generative AI in the legal sector, meaning that it can not be 100% relied upon. Therefore, the most immediate applications are those whereby Generative AI can be seen as a really useful assistant but one whose work nevertheless needs to be closely checked for accuracy.
Taking the example of legal research. When I was a junior lawyer, I would spend hours reviewing case law, statutes and legal opinions (sometimes physically going to the law firm library to examine the hard copy!) to form an opinion regarding how a client’s legal issue would be treated under the relevant law. This is a time consuming task and there is only so much data that can be analysed within the time and budget constraints of a client’s brief. Generative AI has the potential to analyse larger data sets, in a fraction of the time it would take a human, helping the human lawyer to bolster their legal argument (while also diving deeper into the relevant sources to check for accuracy).
For document generation, Generative AI can assist with the preparing a first draft of a legal document by learning from existing documents and ensuring accuracy and consistency with the relevant precedents. This can free up lawyers to instead conduct a detailed review of the first draft and focus their time on the more nuanced aspects of their work.
For client interactions regarding common legal queries, Generative AI can be harnessed to create chatbots or legal assistants to provide preliminary legal advice or guide them through routine legal procedures. A lawyer can then be used as a second level review for accuracy and otherwise focus on more complex, high-value tasks for their clients.
Generative AI applications for legal transaction management
While the Generative AI applications noted above could quickly lead to a legal industry where lawyers can more efficiently and accurately provide their clients with legal advice and draft legal documentation, when it comes to managing the legal transactions themselves, lawyers are likely to still resort to their very manual and administrative ways of using tables in Microsoft word and email to communicate and collaborate with the clients.
That is where there is still an important role for “practice of law” solutions like Legatics. Legatics provides law firms with a platform to collaborate and close deals with their clients. While AI components have been added to the Legatics platform to do certain tasks more quickly, such as generating checklists from underlying documents and identifying signature pages without manually scrolling through a document, the underlying technology is in a category separate to Generative AI and yet will continue to be important for the legal industry to continue to evolve.
There is no doubt that Generative AI is already reshaping, and will continue to reshape, the legal industry. However, not all technology that will revolutionise the sector will have Generative AI at its core.
It is exciting to see how the industry continues to evolve. However, it is important for law firms, in-house teams and legal technology companies to continue to invest in both Generative AI and other impactful technology, without Generative AI at its core, which provides a more effective and efficient way to provide legal services.