knowledge still has questions about genai

Richard Brent|Head of content, Briefing

Over three-quarters of legal business leaders say clients of the firm are asking about plans to deploy generative artificial intelligence (genAI), according to Briefing’s annual strategy and investment benchmarking research Briefing Frontiers — but under one in 10 would say this is happening ‘a lot’ now.

Moreover, at a recent deliciously informal Briefing supper club in March — co-hosted with our technology-hungry friends at Litera — attendees highlighted how some clients are specifically seeking reassurance that AI won’t be used by their firms when working for them. This potentially presents a headache — can the AI coming through realistically be switched off and on according to demand?

And in the absence of such a client request, will firms really have to be explicit that the first draft of something was in fact penned by AI? You wouldn’t feel the need to specify the seniority/capability if it had been started off by a very junior lawyer, it was observed.

It’s far from the only sticky question with this much-hyped possible step-change, of course — and to be honest, it was also acknowledged that perhaps firms are over-worrying it. Won’t clients actually be making wider use of genAI themselves before firms have fine-tuned their own approach?

Another pain-point is working out how to budget effectively for something where your likely outcomes aren’t terribly clear, and costs of course very likely to increase. Perhaps even more concerning, what does it mean for the implementation timelines on other IT projects where expectations of eventual success are hopefully more defined, such as centred on a document management system?

Certainly, nobody wants to see proliferation of expensive tools for expensive tools’ sake — if leaders are to convince the partnership to fork out for something shiny and new, however promising, they’ll want it to add value in more than a single area.

The dependency on good, well-tagged data was also highlighted once again — perhaps appetite for extra efficiencies or competitiveness through AI will force firms to step up to better data governance and behaviours. But if they don’t — or aren’t confident of that data hygiene — poor adoption might follow fast on any perceived poor performance. The ROI won’t materialise, and what then?

Little wonder, this gathering of influential knowledge and innovation leaders told us that the risk department was even more immersed in this world of change than IT itself.

Here’s another one — if your basic argument for getting AI on the case of consistent service delivery is that the ultimate job done will be ‘no worse’, is that really good enough? Is it possible for firms to work out whether it could add value to their ‘best’ work? In some cases, AI appears to be successfully ‘understanding’ — appreciating at least — how lawyers have iteratively amended documents.

And a final case to consider — the notion that a firm will never need to begin work with ‘a blank page’ ever again. This might sound a touch unambitious for a Briefing firm eyeing a brave new world of legal business with loads of extra time unlocked to add value elsewhere. But even if a new starting-point wouldn’t present a strategic game-changer, it could make a rather good leveller in the effective leveraging of knowledge management.

None of this is to say there’s a lack of enthusiasm at table for how genAI could shape our legal future. There are already some convincing use cases gaining ground in business services, and indeed one attendee said that nothing has ever bridged the business silos quite like this before. It’s thought inevitable that augmented working with AI will become business-as-usual for lawyers willing to use it (and they’ll have to use it) — but for this group, at this time, it appears there are still more strategic questions than answers to them.

From business appetite for innovation to transformation of process and working practices, the biggest barriers to change, technology priorities and data strategy, read Briefing Frontiers 2024 in its entirety.



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