Generative artificial intelligence is rapidly transforming many industries, revolutionizing the way content is created, and the legal industry is no exception.
Law firms are frequently being asked by clients about the legal ramifications of these advancements concerning the creation of AI content, as well as having to quickly assess internally how generative AI tools will affect day-to-day legal work.
Firms may take a few different approaches to identify which areas of AI have promise or could fit into their operations. For example, running trial periods using AI tools and then noting those that are a good fit.
Firms may even look to partner with startups or major players in the tech arena in order to play a more direct role in developing the tools that they will be using moving forward.
There have already been some recent high-profile examples of investment into AI tools designed for the legal industry, such as the recent acquisition of CaseText, the legal AI company behind tools such as CoCounsel, which is marketed as an AI legal assistant.
Meanwhile, Harvey, another legal AI tool, earlier this year secured over $20 million in funding to develop and fine-tune its offering, which promises to assist lawyers in research, drafting, analysis and communication through bespoke large language models — the technology that underpins OpenAI's ChatGPT.
Similarly, the Lancaster University Management School has become the latest institution to be awarded grant funding specifically to progress research and development for AI tools to be used in professional service industries, including law.
Other AI tools that already exist and have been brought to market include predictive coding tools that speed up the e-disclosure process and AI-based time-logging tools that can automate how lawyers charge clients for time and generate invoices.
As technology evolves, law firms will need to adjust their recruitment strategies, refine their service offerings and hire specialist lawyers versed in AI technologies and their application within the law.
In terms of recruitment, this will mean seeking out lawyers with a combination of legal expertise and technical proficiency to effectively leverage AI tools and systems.
The impact of AI will necessitate change for organizations supporting the legal sector. Law schools and training programs will need to adapt to the changing landscape and include AI modules to produce a new generation of lawyers with the requisite skills to operate effectively in this brave new world.
The University of Oxford now runs an AI foundation model for legal professionals, and in the U.S., Massachusetts Institute of Technology offers a six-week AI class.Other learning institutions are expected to follow suit in addition to the plethora of online courses available.
Law firms will also need to invest in AI tools and develop expertise in utilizing them to create efficiency and streamline processes. Many leading law firms are already using AI tools to automate the more routine low-level legal tasks, such as contract analysis, due diligence and legal research.
Their hope going forward is that this should enable lawyers to focus on more complex and strategic work. In turn, clients will expect these developments in efficiency to reduce costs, deliver better value and ultimately provide faster and more accurate legal services.
As well as cost reductions, clients are urgently seeking answers from their law firms about AI developments.
In a recent online panel discussion held in June, "Transforming the Legal Industry: Harnessing the Power of Generative AI," one senior law firm partner said that he was constantly being asked about the implications of AI by clients seeking advice about some or all of the following: What inherent AI dangers should we be aware of? Who should be using generative AI in the workplace? What platforms should we be using? What guardrails and policies should we put around AI's use?
Who will answer these questions? The seismic impact and significance of AI across many industries is likely to lead to the development of lawyers who are dedicated AI specialists, expected to possess a deep understanding of available AI offerings, plus an understanding of the underlying algorithms and their legal ramifications.
They would also be expected to advise clients and their own law firms on all matters impacted by AI advancements, both legal and ethical, to ensure compliance with present and future regulations and to mitigate potential risk.
It is being mooted that, as we have seen with the rise of compliance professionals in the last 15 years, this new generation of AI specialist lawyers will become a separate vertical within the legal industry, helping clients navigate the complex and growing landscape of AI-related legal issues such as data privacy, intellectual property, liability and regulatory compliance.
It will be essential for such specialists to keep abreast of new laws and regulations governing AI, and to provide insight as to the legal implications of emerging AI technologies, such as autonomous vehicles, machine learning algorithms and natural language processing.
Throughout history, the advent of technological advancement has precipitated fears of obsolescence and redundancy for mankind. In reality, most have meant that roles evolve. In many cases, new ones emerge in greater numbers.
AI is unlikely to replace human lawyers anytime soon, nor will it negate the need for new associates to master the core competencies and skill sets of legal practice.
The practice of law requires critical thinking, creativity, judgment and even empathy, none of which AI can currently reproduce.
Lawyers will still be needed to interpret complex legal issues, represent clients, and make strategic decisions based on their expertise and experience. Instead of replacing lawyers, AI should enhance their capabilities, enabling them to work more efficiently and effectively.
In an industry perhaps not known for its speed and innovation compared to others, generative AI has the power to automate mundane tasks, reduce costs and elevate client service to a level never seen before.
A research report from Goldman Sachs International carried out in March has suggested that almost half of the daily tasks that currently sit with lawyers, paralegals and other legal professionals could be automated by AI.
Indeed, it is becoming increasingly clear that AI will significantly affect the way law firms recruit lawyers and deliver legal services.
Recruitment strategies will need to adapt to the demand for candidates with AI expertise and AI specialist lawyers may emerge as another niche within the profession.
Ultimately, AI will empower lawyers to focus on higher-value work while augmenting their abilities, reshaping the legal landscape for years to come.
 Panel discussion webinar hosted on June 13: https://www.mlaglobal.com/en/webinars/transforming-the-legal-industry-harnessing-the-power-of- generative--ai.