AI can help legal departments with ‘digital transformation’
While artificial intelligence (AI) has streamlined repetitive and mundane tasks for in-house counsel, a lack of education in using AI (and to its fullest potential) can lead to significant risks – and this partner has urged legal departments to implement AI training for in-house lawyers.
Thomson Reuters’ 2023 Australia: State of the Legal Market Report, released in August, showed that while 61 per cent of legal departments have started exploring the use of AI, only 7 per cent are actively using the tool in their day-to-day practices. The report further revealed that 39 per cent do not have any concrete plans to adopt AI tools within their practice.
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However, early adopters of AI and those who master its use will reportedly continue to excel, while those who have a limited understanding of its use within the legal profession will fall behind. In fact, 23 per cent of lawyers have said they would leave their firm for a more innovative one.
In conversation with Lawyers Weekly, Hicksons Lawyers partner David Fischl, who specialises in legal digital transformation, emphasised the importance for corporate counsels to master the use of AI to drive better outcomes for clients and their own practice.
Alarmingly, 37 per cent of in-house counsel reported that they have yet to be educated about the risks that generative AI could pose if used incorrectly. Therefore, Mr Fischl emphasised that legal departments need to recognise the need for AI training for corporate counsel – training which is key for delivering accurate and high-quality results.
“As with all legal work, a portion of tasks tend to be standard and repetitive. These tasks are ideally positioned to benefit from digital transformation and use of AI technology. Mastering the use of AI technology, in-house legal teams can make themselves progressive problem solvers and forward thinkers in their organisation,” he said.
“The first stage of the journey that legal teams should embark on is immediately implementing a secure ChatGPT solution for their lawyers plus up to one hour’s training. The solution must be based in Australia, secure and accessible through platforms used by the legal team, such as Teams or Slack. This will give their lawyers a safe, firsthand experience to experiment and determine what AI technology can do and what it can’t do. They will also get the benefit of genuine and immediate help with basic tasks!
“The second stage of the journey is that in-house teams should collaborate with IT and their internal clients to identify specific use cases where digital transformation and AI technology can enhance legal processes. For example, answering frequently asked questions on organisation policies such as privacy practices. We, as lawyers, may believe that our clients prefer human-to-human interactions over AI integration. However, the reality is that when implemented effectively, digital solutions are well received and even preferred.”
According to Mr Fischl, AI can be used to solve some of in-house lawyers’ biggest problems, with 33 per cent of in-house teams looking to AI to control cost.
“Lawyers working within in-house teams are often stressed by significant workloads, increased compliance requirements, limited resources, and internal pressures from wider business.
“For part of the workload, lawyers can get fatigued giving the same advice about the same issues several times in a week. The volume of work leaves internal clients frustrated with delays in receiving answers to their seemingly simple questions. Moreover, inconsistencies arise in the answers provided overtime from lawyer to lawyer,” he explained.
“However, digital transformation and AI can solve this problem by providing their internal clients [with] on-demand, accurate and personalised advice. An AI chatbot that is easily accessible to internal clients would provide advice instantaneously, accurately, and consistently. This benefits the organisation through reduced response times, increased satisfaction, and cost savings as lawyers transition to focussing on higher level work.”
In addition to benefiting organisations greatly, the use of AI can drive better outcomes for clients and in-house lawyers alike, added Mr Fischl.
“The use of AI can drive better outcomes for in-house teams as AI-powered tools can help give on-demand tailored advice to their internal clients,” he said.
“It is high time for the legal sector to follow the majority of Australian industries and commence their digital transformation journeys.”