07 August 2019

Report looks forward to legal department 2025

Ready or not, Artificial Intelligence is already here as report highlights the ups and downs of adoption by corporate legal departments.

The stereotype of Lawyers as technology Luddites who are slow to change and wary of innovation is changing, at least for corporate counsel, according to the results of a new Thomson Reuters report, “Ready or Not: Artificial Intelligence and Corporate Legal Departments.”

Tech savvy

The report reveals corporate counsel believe they are tech savvy but acknowledge that their comfort level and confidence with technology have limitations, specifically around artificial intelligence (AI). The applications and impact of AI are growing, and AI tools will undoubtedly affect how the legal profession practices over the next decade. Consider how dramatically technology inventions have already changed the practice of law: From typewriters to computers and from fax machines to email, each advance has been transformative in the law. Lawyers have accepted and adopted each of these evolutions. AI is the next frontier. Thomson Reuters conducted a survey of 207 in-house attorneys to measure current perceptions regarding the use of AI in corporate legal departments and the perceived benefits of AI once adopted.

Receptive to AI

Roughly two-thirds (67 percent) of all survey respondents stated they are confident and ready to try new technology. Only 2 percent reported not feeling confident when it comes to trying new technology. Larger departments were the most receptive to adopting AI tools. Only 26 percent of respondents in departments with more than 11 attorneys believed their departments were not interested in AI, while 67 percent of respondents who work in legal departments with six to 10 attorneys reported their departments are not interested, and 62 percent of respondents in legal departments with fewer than six attorneys indicated their departments aren’t ready. Overall, small and midsize departments’ relative lack of interest may be related to a lack of awareness; almost half (45 percent) of those in departments with fewer than six attorneys indicated they are not familiar with the use of AI in corporate legal departments. Similarly, 27 percent of attorneys in both departments with fewer than six attorneys and those with six to 10 attorneys simply didn’t have an opinion about the use of AI in corporate legal departments. Almost two-thirds of survey respondents indicated their legal departments have access to data regarding outside counsel costs and legal costs, yet less than half (49 percent) feel they are effectively using this data. Similarly, only 29 percent of respondents indicated their legal departments are effectively using data extracted from contracts to develop business strategy or minimize contract risks. Less than 15 percent of survey respondents believed their legal departments are effectively using big data to deliver legal services.

Adopting AI

In terms of predicting when AI will make its full impact, respondents believed that AI is not on the fast track to adoption. Only 21 percent indicated AI will be mainstream in corporate legal departments within five years, while 39 percent predicted it will be within 10 years, and 37 percent believed it will take more than 10 years. Adoption hurdles are costs, ethical considerations and reliability,  and appetite for change and change management, with only 4 percent of respondents indicating their departments are seriously considering purchasing technology tools with AI.

AI “already here”

The report states, “Legal departments aren’t the only ones wrestling with the impact and implications of AI. Technology companies at the forefront of AI are reassuring workers across all industries that it’s intended to augment employees’ capabilities, not replace them.” It said, “A caveat is that workers need to keep current on technologies and be trained to use them,” though noted “corporate counsel have already been using AI tools in some of their mainstream workflows, such as legal research, for years.” In a final point, the report stated, “In-house attorneys must ensure that the potential hurdles - from cost and reliability to lawyers’ hesitancy to be early adopters - don’t keep them from realizing the potential of AI to transform legal departments by enabling them to reduce costs, develop business strategy, minimize contract risks, and deliver better legal services. Corporate counsel will eventually need to accept and adopt AI tools because, ready or not, they’re already here.”

Download the full report here.