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AI vs. Legal AI, What’s The Difference?

March 01, 2024 (3 min read)
A computer generated image of a long row of shelves with glowing crystal blocks on them, similar to bookshelves in a library

By Geoffrey D. Ivnik, Esq. | Director of Large Markets, LexisNexis 

It may seem like a distant memory by now, but it was November 2022 when most legal professionals were first introduced to the world of Generative Artificial Intelligence (Gen AI) technology with the commercial debut of ChatGPT. That tool was soon followed by launches of Gen AI offerings from Google, Microsoft and other major tech companies.

These open-web AI tools amazed users with their ability to seemingly create new content out of thin air in response to simple search queries, and tech-savvy lawyers began dreaming of use cases for this new technology, from drafting client emails to summarizing lengthy documents for a brief that is due the next morning. It didn’t take long, though, before lawyers learned that these open-web AI tools were not designed for the legal environment. ChatGPT was great for planning a vacation itinerary in Hawaii, not so great with surfacing court decisions to support a legal argument.

Put simply, the legal profession cannot rely on open-web AI tools to perform legal work. Legal AI — Gen AI tools trained for the legal profession — are the only viable option for legal professions who want to take advantage of the AI revolution.

“General AI models just don’t work for law firms, they need very specific and legally trained models,” said Sean Fitzpatrick, CEO of LexisNexis North America, UK and Ireland, in comments during a recent Wall Street Journal event for law firm managing partners. “There’s a lot of hype out there about Gen AI in the legal space, but there’s a reality within that hype that there are some real products, they really work and they’re transformational.”

Fitzpatrick noted that there are some important reasons why law firms need to seek out a Legal AI solution for their lawyers. For example, lawyers need authoritative and up-to-date legal resources at their fingertips to practice effectively, which open-web AI tools such as ChatGPT are unable to access in the training of their models. Also, Legal AI solutions are shaped and informed by a combination of technologists and “an army” of lawyers who are subject matter experts in their fields, not just by machines ingesting content and engineers writing code.

The available data suggests that leading-edge law firms are embracing Legal AI at a rate that far surpasses previous tech innovations.

The LexisNexis 2024 Investing in Legal Innovation Survey: The Rise of Gen AI at Top Firms & Corporations, surveyed managing partners and other senior leaders at large law firms, as well as executives in corporate legal departments at Fortune 1000 companies, to better understand the business impact of Gen AI technology on the legal industry. Our survey found that 53% of Am Law 200 firms have already purchased Legal AI tools and that 45% of Am Law 200 firms are currently using Gen AI solutions for legal work.

“We’re hearing from law firms that they are actually using Legal AI products right now,” Fitzpatrick said. “This is real and it’s moving very quickly. We just haven’t seen these kinds of adoption rates in the legal technology industry in the past, so this is quite revolutionary.”

He added that corporate legal departments are following a similar track of Gen AI adoption — in fact, our survey found that corporate leaders reported the highest degree of current Gen AI usage — and these potential law firm clients are seeking outside counsel to provide them with trusted guidance on their Gen AI journey.

“They are facing issues such as regulatory matters, data security and privacy concerns,” Fitzpatrick said. “They need help and there is a lot of opportunity for law firms who are positioned to help them. AI is no longer a future consideration, it is a present necessity for law firms.”

This article was based on one of the panel discussions at the Wall Street Journal event, “What Every Managing Partner & C-Suite Leader Needs to Know About Legal AI,” which took place on January 31st in New York City. Watch the entire session, The New Legal Frontier, for more insights from industry leaders.