Thinking about adopting AI at your law firm? Here's what you need to know.
During a recent summit of law firm CIOs co-hosted by Intapp and Microsoft, one of the hottest topics of conversation was generative AI. “Not a day goes by that I don’t get questions from lawyers ranging from ‘When will we start using ChatGPT?’ to ‘How can AI benefit our firm?’” said one CIO. It was a refrain echoed by many of his peers. And it’s no wonder there’s interest: With all the media coverage, ChatGPT gained over 100 million active users in its first two months.
With more than 20 years of experience advising professional and financial services firms, we recognize the breakthroughs that AI can offer law firms. AI can transform workflows, uncover insights, enable employees to focus on higher level tasks, and improve client services.
Like the internet and the iPhone, generative AI has burst on the scene with the potential to transform the way we work and live. But for precise and knowledge-intensive industries like law, it also comes with real challenges.
Why is AI in the spotlight now?
Many are surprised to learn that AI has been around for more than two decades in various incarnations, mostly behind the scenes of their everyday experiences. But recent advancements in large language models (LLM), along with enhancements to the Q&A experience, have caught the public’s attention.
So what is a large language model? An LLM is an AI model that has been trained on vast amounts of publicly available data and can perform specific tasks based on that data. The underlying model also has the ability to consider the context of a question — meaning it can distinguish between different uses of the same term (e.g., Apollo the space mission vs. Apollo the global asset management firm) and progressions or sequences (e.g., what came before, what comes next, what comes after that, and so on).
These capabilities allow AI to more accurately mimic human behavior when researching responses to questions, summarizing and synthesizing multiple documents, and creating content. Models can even predict follow-up questions and make recommendations for next steps.
Applied AI models, purpose-built around industry-specific processes, offer even more potential.
What opportunities does AI offer law firms?
Advancements in applied AI can create tremendous value for law firms. These capabilities can save your attorneys countless hours of tedious work — and, by drawing on the knowledge of your entire firm, deliver better outcomes for your clients. For example, your firm’s lawyers and other professionals could ask an applied AI model to:
- Research precedents for a matter, summarize the main points, and identify which rulings are most relevant
- Identify similar matters that your firm has successfully concluded in the past year
- Determine which firm lawyers have expertise in a particular area
- Review your firm’s body of work on a specific topic and create a library of standard clauses
- Notify lawyers if a clause is missing from a new contract and suggest what language should be inserted
- Note outside counsel guidelines (OCGs) and alert staff if a compliance issue occurs
Applied AI can also help streamline matter management. For example, it can auto-tag and file content based on the context of scanned emails, documents, and invoices — making files easy for your staff to find simply by asking natural language questions. And on the business development (BD) front, AI can generate emails to clients impacted by new government regulations. It can also draft responses to RFPs, identify new revenue opportunities, and streamline the BD process.
From organizing content to improving matter management to drafting RFP responses to checking invoices for OCG compliance, there are countless ways that purpose-built, applied AI solutions can create value for your law firm. And firms aren’t the only beneficiaries of AI adoption — clients looking to control costs will also benefit.
What are the risks of adopting AI?
Along with the rewards that emerging technologies bring, there are risks as well.
Consider an associate who eagerly embraces an open AI model, based on publicly available data, for research purposes. Unfortunately, as recent news stories have made clear, open models can include incorrect or misleading information from questionable sources. There is also the danger of “model hallucination”— that is, when a general model gives a statistically likely answer that is incorrect. Lawyers using AI search tools should always carefully review and verify the results of such queries before sharing them or incorporating them into their work products.
Finally, consider that technology vendors are just now beginning to train general AI models on industry and firm data. Until this process is more mature, lawyers should exercise caution when using these models. Firms should also should exercise due diligence when seeking to partner with a vendor to train an AI model on their firm’s data: New vendors are entering this space daily, and not all of them have staying power. Law firms who work with proprietary and confidential data daily need to consider where and how their data is being stored, and what will happen to it if the vendor is acquired by another entity or ceases to exist.
What should law firms do now?
Generative AI offers limitless opportunities to transform the legal industry. Yet with any emerging technology, the uncertainties must be acknowledged and managed. How can firms walk the line between risk and reward? Here are three tips we share with our clients:
- Start with the right use case. Your firm should give careful thought to how and where to test AI in your organization. Pick a use case that involves a manual process that does not require the precision of more nuanced, mission-critical work, and that yields measurable outcomes. Two good places to start are client onboarding and updating CRM contact information. These test runs will help your lawyers and firm leaders gain familiarity and quantify the benefits from the technology — while also limiting the risks inherent in adopting an emerging technology.
- Build human oversight into the process. Despite the media hype, generative AI is still relatively new. Until models are properly trained, they will make mistakes. Your firm’s AI plan should ensure any output from a model is reviewed by a professional. Now OpenAI reads the contracts and writes a summary more quickly than a human could. A lawyer will still need to review it but he or she now has more time to spend on higher value tasks.
- Pick your partners carefully. When your firm is ready to implement AI, you should choose technology partners who have experience deploying production-level AI, a strong track record with data security, innovation, and a deep knowledge of legal workflows. That way you can be certain your data will be handled correctly, and that the technology will create value for your firm.
When applied strategically, AI gives law firms a competitive advantage by transforming processes, elevating professionals’ work, and enhancing the client experience. Whether your firm is an early adopter or prefers to take a wait-and-see approach, trusted advisors who have an intimate understanding of your industry, a proven track record of innovation, and a thorough grasp of the uncertainties inherent in emerging technologies can provide expert guidance to help meet your firm’s goals.
How can the Intapp/Microsoft partnership help your firm?
Based on Intapp’s experience advising 96 of the Am Law 100, we are uniquely positioned to help your firm create and implement an applied AI strategy — and our strategic partnership with Microsoft means applied AI can be seamlessly integrated into your firm’s daily work. From organizing content to improve matter management to drafting responses to RFPs or checking invoices for compliance with outside counsel guidelines, there are countless ways that our purpose-built, applied AI solutions can create value for your law firm.
To learn more about how Intapp and Microsoft’s strategic partnership can benefit your firm, visit intapp.com/partner/Microsoft.
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