London, UK – The Thomson Reuters Institute has released a new report discussing the evolving attitudes towards the use of generative AI and ChatGPT within law firms. The report, titled ChatGPT & Generative AI within Law Firms, surveyed lawyers about the opportunities and potential risks associated with these technologies.
The release of OpenAI’s ChatGPT prototype for public use has shed light on the myriad abilities that its underlying technology, generative artificial intelligence (AI), possesses. Many lawyers and legal industry experts have become keenly aware of what these tools could mean for the profession and for law firms in particular.
According to the report, a large majority (82%) of the 440 respondent lawyers at large and midsize law firms in the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada believe that ChatGPT and generative AI can be readily applied to legal work. However, only slightly smaller majority (51%) said that ChatGPT and generative AI should be applied to legal work.
The report revealed several key findings that deserve special attention from law firm leaders and other legal professionals as ChatGPT and generative AI evolve from concept to reality for the vast majority of the legal industry participants. These findings include:
1. Attitudes are evolving around this technology: While almost everybody surveyed had heard of ChatGPT and generative AI, actual use among law firms thus far was quite limited, with just 3% of respondents saying they are actually using generative AI right now.
2. Firms are taking a cautiously proactive approach: About 15% of respondents said their firms have warned employees against unauthorised generative AI use at work, and 6% said their firms have banned unauthorised usage outright, indicating that many lawyers clearly understand the importance of applying guardrails to generative AI use.
3. There’s a growing awareness of the risks: A large portion of respondents had concerns with the use of ChatGPT and generative AI at work — 62%, which included 80% of partners or managing partners. Many of the concerns voiced in the survey seemed to revolve around the technology’s accuracy and security, most specifically about how law firms’ concerns of privacy and client confidentiality will be addressed.
Despite concerns about the accuracy and security of generative AI and ChatGPT, many legal industry observers (and many of the respondents) know that by any measure, it is still early in the game for these technologies. It is expected that time and experimentation will make users more comfortable with these tools, and a day will come when generative AI and ChatGPT are in as common use within law firms as online legal research and electronic contract signing are now.
“Within the next six months everybody at the firm will be using it,” said Charlotte Woolven-Brown, Head of Employment and a Partner at law firm Sternberg Reed in the United Kingdom. “And there’s absolutely no way you’re going to stop that, because people will get more in tune with what’s happening and how quickly this technology is developing.”
Rudi Kesic, CEO of Verify 365, a leading provider of digital onboarding technology, commented on the report, saying, “We are excited to see the growing acceptance of ChatGPT and generative AI within the legal industry. We believe that these technologies have the potential to revolutionise the way law firms operate, and we are committed to providing the necessary digital onboarding technology to help law firms make the most of these tools.”
The report also highlights the potential use cases for ChatGPT and generative AI within law firms.
– One of the key areas where these technologies could be used is in legal research. ChatGPT and generative AI could be used to quickly sift through large volumes of legal documents, statutes, and case law to help lawyers find the information they need to build their arguments. This could greatly speed up the legal research process and reduce the amount of time and resources spent on it.
– Furthermore, the technology could be used to identify patterns and trends in legal decisions, which could help lawyers make more informed decisions and predict the likely outcome of a case.
– Another area where ChatGPT and generative AI could be useful is in contract drafting. The technology could be used to automatically generate contracts based on predefined criteria, which could help to reduce the amount of time spent on manual contract drafting.
– Additionally, the technology could be used to review existing contracts and identify areas where improvements could be made, such as clauses that are outdated or need to be revised.
– The report also notes that ChatGPT and generative AI could be used in the area of document analysis. Lawyers could use the technology to automatically review and categorise large volumes of documents, such as discovery documents in litigation cases. This could help lawyers quickly identify key documents and information that are relevant to a case, which could speed up the litigation process.
– In addition to these areas, ChatGPT and generative AI could also be used in other areas of legal practice, such as legal writing, due diligence, and e-discovery.
However, the report also notes that there are potential risks associated with the use of these technologies in the legal profession.
– For example, there is a risk that the technology could be used to automate tasks that should be performed by lawyers, which could lead to job loss and reduced quality of legal services.
– There is also a risk that the technology could be used to generate biased or inaccurate results, which could lead to incorrect legal advice and outcomes.
– Furthermore, there is a risk that the technology could be used to generate legal documents that are not properly vetted, which could lead to legal errors and malpractice claims.
To address these risks, the report recommends that law firms take a cautious and proactive approach to the adoption of ChatGPT and generative AI. This could include implementing strict data privacy and security measures, as well as ensuring that lawyers are properly trained in the use of the technology. Additionally, the report suggests that law firms should establish clear guidelines and policies for the use of these technologies, including guidelines for when it is appropriate to use the technology and when it is not.
In addition to the concerns over accuracy and security, another issue that emerged in the survey was the potential impact of generative AI on the legal profession as a whole. Some lawyers expressed fears that the technology could replace human lawyers and diminish the importance of legal expertise. However, others saw it as a way to enhance their work and improve efficiency.
Rudi Kesic, CEO of Verify 365, a company that provides digital onboarding technology for law firms, added that he sees generative AI as a tool to assist lawyers rather than replace them. He added, “Generative AI has the potential to revolutionise the legal profession, but it should be seen as a complementary technology that supports human expertise rather than a replacement for it. At Verify 365, we have integrated generative AI into our digital onboarding technology to help lawyers quickly and accurately review documents and identify potential issues.”
The use of generative AI in law firms is still in its early stages, but it is clear that it has the potential to transform the legal profession. As the technology evolves, it is likely that more law firms will adopt it to improve their efficiency and provide better services to their clients. However, it is also important to address the concerns and risks associated with its use to ensure that client confidentiality and privacy are protected.
The Thomson Reuters Institute’s report concludes by stating that “it is clear that generative AI and ChatGPT are here to stay within law firms and throughout the legal industry.” It advises law firms to carefully consider the potential benefits and risks of using the technology and to establish clear policies and guidelines for its use. By doing so, law firms can embrace the potential of generative AI while also protecting the interests of their clients and their own businesses.
“While there are concerns about the accuracy and security of the technology, many lawyers see it as a way to enhance their work and provide better services to their clients. As the technology evolves, it is likely that more law firms will adopt it, but it is important to address the concerns and risks associated with its use to ensure that client confidentiality and privacy are protected,” added Rudi. “My advice to law firms is to establish clear policies and guidelines for the use of generative AI and ChatGPT and to consider the potential benefits and risks of using the technology. With careful consideration and implementation, ChatGPT and generative AI could help to transform the legal profession and improve the delivery of legal services for years to come.”