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In-house better placed to adapt to AI, say GCs

For a multitude of reasons, corporate lawyers may be able to adapt to the uptake of artificial intelligence sooner than their private practice counterparts.

user iconJerome Doraisamy 28 March 2023 Corporate Counsel
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In a blog post last week, California-based head of community development at Ironclad and legal influencer Alex Su wrote that corporate legal would adopt artificial intelligence (AI) technology more quickly than Biglaw due to pressures from the general business world and the existence of legal operations to help select reliable tech.

“BigLaw will struggle with adoption due to their reliance on the billable hour, which could be threatened by AI,” Mr Su wrote.

“One of the biggest lessons of my legal tech sales career is that [corporate] legal departments are far more sensitive to changes in the general business world. It’s because they’re pressured to.


“Pressure comes in the form of, say, sales demanding legal to approve contracts more quickly. Corporate legal exists to enable the business, so if the business moves more quickly through the use of technology, like AI, that trend will impact in-house lawyers.”

The advent of AI platforms, such as ChatGPT, will no doubt impact the ways in which lawyers and their businesses operate day-to-day in the future. To read Lawyers Weekly’s extensive coverage in this space, click here.

How soon that impact is realised, however, is yet to be seen.

Senior legal counsel in Australia seem to agree with Mr Su’s position that those in-house are better placed to adapt to the coming transition and will thus be quicker at utilising such technology successfully.

It is correct, Canon Oceania chief legal counsel David Field opined, that in-house lawyers will be at the forefront of AI adoption for numerous reasons.

“In-house teams are under extreme cost and workload pressure, meaning that they are going to be particularly focused on whatever mechanisms they can use to either do more with less, or move further into managing-down risk in parts of the business that they are currently just not getting to,” he outlined.

“Beyond that, corporates are likely to move more rapidly in applying a very pragmatic approach to the imperfections of AI solutions, and perhaps be more willing to adopt AI solutions that deliver ‘better’, even though they still fall substantially short of ‘perfect’.” 

Elixinol Wellness group general counsel and company secretary Teresa Clearly “wholeheartedly” agreed.

“For in-house legal functions and teams with little or no administrative support, ChatGPT, for example, can perform many functions of a virtual personal assistant and without the need to integrate into existing platforms used across an organisation,” she detailed.

“As a starting premise and noting AI is still developing, ChatGPT can be used to manage routine tasks such as developing initial drafts of letters, memos, emails, policies and process documents, handbooks, training presentations and other routine documents, as well as assist with time-consuming tasks such as legal research.”

“Whilst AI is generating the initial drafts, this will free up time for in-house counsel to work on more strategic and high-risk matters for their business, particularly on matters where they can really add value,” Ms Clearly submitted.

There will, of course, be various challenges for corporate lawyers in the deployment of AI, the pair added.

Mr Field posed: “What can I rely on in the output of AI?  What do I need to question?  What are the biases and assumptions that have been trained into any given system, so that I can know where the shortcomings or gaps are likely to be?”

Moreover, Ms Clearly said in support, AI won’t be a substitute for human lawyers just yet, “as we still have an obligation to check the quality and standard of the work produced by AI to ensure it will benefit our commercial stakeholders”.

This said, she noted, “AI is another tool in our toolbox to enable us to work smarter and more efficiently”.

Such efficiency may well be realised sooner by those in-house than practitioners across the board.