The emergence of accessible artificial intelligence and large language models has brought about the beginning of a period of significant change in the legal profession. Whilst there are understandably concerns from employees that this may place their jobs at risk, and from partners that AI backed software may erode their marketplace, there are also some significant opportunities.

The productivity benefits offered by AI promises to help firms reduce their reliance on legal administrative staff and potentially upskill them, at a time when recruitment is challenging and limiting scalability. There is also the promise for firms who invest in AI technology that by increasing speed and reducing the cost involved in delivering their services, that they may be able to open up new markets and accelerate their growth.

The AI revolution is however in its early days and there are undoubtedly risks in its adoption. How do law firms identify and control the risks and how do they balance it against the benefits this technology offers?

AI a differentiator and disruptor

AI offers tremendous opportunities for law firms and whilst many may still consider it an emerging technology, its use in SME firms in the legal profession and beyond is already widespread. Use cases include:

  • Legal documents being reviewed for errors and inconsistencies with pinpoint accuracy, freeing up valuable staff time for more complex tasks.
  • Legal research conducted across vast databases, identifying relevant case law and precedents in a fraction of the traditional time.
  • Chatbots answering routine client inquiries 24/7, allowing teams to focus on high-value strategy and client service.

These are just a few possibilities that AI can bring to your firm with such AI-powered tools in particular enabling you to:

  • Boost Productivity: Automate repetitive tasks like document review and legal research, allowing your legal team to dedicate more time to strategic work and client service.
  • Reduce Costs: Minimize human error and streamline processes, leading to cost savings that can be passed on to clients or reinvested in the firm’s growth.
  • Enhance Client Service: Faster turnaround times, 24/7 support via chatbots, and more accurate research all contribute to a superior client experience.

The challenge for more cautious and traditional firms, who may be ‘AI averse’ or at least prefer to adopt it at a slower pace, is that they may soon find themselves at a very significant disadvantage and lose out to competition based on cost, quality and speed of services.

Understanding the risks

With the pace of change accelerating, and the need for firms to maintain a competitive edge in the marketplace, it is therefore prudent for partners to take action now to understand the risks around AI deployment and to understand how to mitigate them thus allowing them to safely deploy AI tools and software. Potential risks include:

  • Data Security and Confidentiality: Client data is the lifeblood of any law firm. AI systems that access this data, or indeed any other data held by the firm, must have robust security protocols in place to prevent breaches.
  • Algorithmic Bias: As with any technology trained on data, AI algorithms can perpetuate existing biases if not carefully monitored. Selecting unbiased tools and ongoing vigilance are crucial.
  • Accountability: Ultimately, the responsibility for legal advice and client outcomes rests with your firm. It’s essential to ensure AI is used as a powerful tool, not a substitute, for your legal expertise.

Mitigating Risk: A Proactive Approach

Once a proper risk assessment has been carried out, and the implications of AI deployment better understood, then an approach to manage them and allow safe AI use can be implemented. Examples of such approaches include:

  • Partnering with Reputable AI Providers: Choose providers with a proven track record in data security and ethical AI development. Certifications and industry recognition are important indicators.
  • Investing in Training: Ensure your staff understands how to use AI effectively and identify potential biases in its outputs. Training should encompass both the technical aspects and the ethical considerations of AI.
  • Maintaining Oversight: Lawyers are ultimately responsible for client outcomes. AI should never be a “black box.” Regularly review its performance and integrate its insights with your legal expertise.

So is AI safe for law firms to use?

Whether legal professionals like it or not, we are at the early stages of an AI revolution which will change the way we work, do business and live. This will ultimately affect all professional services sectors but the legal profession is at the forefront. Those firms that develop an approach to safely adopt it will position themselves for long term success whilst others get left behind.

What to do next?

Before embarking on your AI journey you should ensure you have the foundations in place for good information governance. If you are unsure if this is the case or how to do it then book an IT strategy consultation meeting with Pro Drive today and we will help you benchmark where you are and make a plan for the future.