General Counsel Who Don’t Embrace Artificial Intelligence Will Eventually Be Replaced


Artificial intelligence (AI) is a transformative technology that will revolutionize our way of life and business as did the computer, the internet and cellphones. Blackstone refers to AI as the “megatrend of megatrends.” McKinsey predicts that by 2030, 30% of the hours currently worked across the U.S. economy could be automated in large part due to generative AI. This has serious implications for general counsel and corporate legal departments.

According to a Thomson Reuters study, corporate law departments are very familiar with this megatrend but surprisingly only 11% of general counsel indicated that they are actually using or planning to use ChatGPT and generative AI within their legal department. This means a staggering 90% of general counsel have no intention of utilizing AI in their legal operations while the rest of the world explores the benefits of and utilizes this revolutionary technology.

This schism between corporate legal departments’ use of AI as compared to use of AI by the companies the law departments support presents a pressing issue. As companies find synergies, efficiencies, cost savings, creative solutions and speed to market through AI, where does that leave the legal department as a late adopter or non-adopter of AI? General counsel and law departments run the risk of losing touch with the business, failing to provide cost savings, being less responsive in a timely fashion and having highly paid lawyers do the work a machine could do more efficiently. According to Goldman Sachs, approximately 44% of legal tasks can be automated by using AI.

General counsel who don’t thoughtfully consider the following tangible benefits of generative AI will become a relic of the past in the not-too-distant future:

  1. Due Diligence and Document Review. A major benefit of AI is the ability to process large amounts of data in a meaningful way. AI will automate the document review process to make it more efficient, standard, thorough, and accurate.

  2. Contract Lifecycle Management. AI is able to standardize basic contracts as well as undertake the initial review of counterparties’ contracts, analyze the terms, and highlight red flags and potential issues. Thereafter, AI will track compliance, milestones, and retention requirements. At the macrolevel, AI can act as an umbrella contract management system with predictive capability.

  3. Legal Research, Regulatory Compliance, and Data Privacy. AI is able to compile and analyze relevant laws, statutes, regulations, treatises, corporate policies, law review articles, and case law. The ability of AI to synthesize legal, privacy and regulatory requirements in a thoughtful, useful manner is a major benefit of the technology.

  4. Law Department Operations and Client Interface. AI can easily assist with the running of the legal department by tracking projects, resource allocation, tasks, deadlines, and requirements. It will also help the law departments’ interaction with their clients by creating presentations, summarizing meetings, and assisting with intake requests.

Although the benefits of AI are clear and persuasive, it is not surprising that general counsel are reluctant to adopt AI. A legal department’s primary function is to mitigate company risks and ensure legal compliance. Generative AI is full of risks, which include accuracy, security, quality of data, confidentiality, bias, transparency, privacy and ethical considerations. Naturally, general counsel should take pause and carefully consider inviting something as nascent and risky into their legal operations. However, this careful consideration should not be prohibitive of adopting AI in some form. The rewards of generative AI clearly outweigh the risks if adopted in a thoughtful, measured manner.

To start, general counsel should educate themselves on available tools. They can speak with peers, attend conferences, meet with AI vendors, and tap into legal operations communities to familiarize themselves with their options and learn what adopters are saying. Notably, general counsel from Adobe, Intel, Microsoft, Ford, and Intel have joined forces with other general counsel to form “The Sense Collective” to collaboratively address AI framework, issues and implementation.

AI will undoubtedly transform legal departments through streamlining and automating tasks and processes, increasing productivity, driving cost reduction, minimizing contract and regulatory risks, and delivering creative solutions and better deliverables in record time. As efficiencies and synergies result, the legal team will be empowered to spend time on high-impact, strategic initiatives where they can employ innovative approaches to partner with the business and emerge as thought leaders at their companies. This will help attract and retain top talent and be a substantial value add to clients.

General counsel should, with cautiousness, care and the skepticism that has gotten them to where they are today, begin to explore how AI can help them be best in class. They should embrace the transformative benefits that can be reaped by adopting AI, while navigating the obstacles that may be presented along the way. To not do so will put them far beyond what will soon be the market standard for corporate legal departments. CEOs and boards will have a keen on eye on how AI is being strategically utilized in their companies, including how the law department is benefiting from it.

AI technology and its adoption is moving at light speed. General counsel who ignore the benefits of AI or avoid the use of AI in their legal operations will be left behind and their legal departments will suffer. As a wise lawyer once said, “AI won’t replace lawyers, but lawyers who use AI will replace lawyers who don’t.”


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