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Legal AI: 3 Steps Law Firms Should Take Now

March 01, 2024 (3 min read)

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

If 2023 was the year that introduced most legal professionals to the emerging world of generative artificial intelligence (Gen AI) technology, then 2024 is likely to be the year when law firms roll up their sleeves and figure out how to adapt their operations to take advantage of the benefits of Gen AI.

“Things are moving very quickly, so managing partners at law firms and C-suite executives at corporations need to really stay abreast of what’s going on in this space right now,” 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.

Fitzpatrick identified three specific steps that law firm leaders should be taking now to prepare for the more widespread adoption of Legal AI — Gen AI tools trained for the legal profession — that is underway:

1. Set a budget

“Gen AI is not the kind of thing that you can just pile on top of the other work that people are already doing,” said Fitzpatrick. “You need specific resources assigned to this and you need to buy the tools to do the work, so having a specific budget is important.”

Many law firms are heeding this message and making fiscal allocations for the new Legal AI tools that are coming to market this year.

Our 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. The survey found that 43% of Am Law 200 firms already have a dedicated budget line item for Gen AI solutions and 34% of respondents from Am Law 200 firms expect their Gen AI investment to increase “significantly” over the next five years.

2. Review staffing

“If you look at the talent that you have in your organization and the skills that you need to really deploy this technology, I think most firms will find that there is a gap,” said Fitzpatrick. “Either you need to invest in ‘up-skilling’ your existing resources so they can use the technology appropriately or you need to go find additional human resources.”

The early data from the marketplace suggests that many firms are quickly discovering their current staffing is insufficient to capitalize on the new generation of Legal AI tools. The LexisNexis 2024 Investing in Legal Innovation Survey: The Rise of Gen AI at Top Firms & Corporations found that 38% of Am Law 200 leaders expect to hire more data scientists and engineers to support Gen AI initiatives at their firms this year.

3. Start training

“These are very high-performance tech tools that you can think of in terms of a high-performance race car,” Fitzpatrick explained. “What you don’t want to do is put an amateur driver in the seat of a high-performance race car or you’re not going to get the results that you want. In a similar manner, there is a really important training element to this as well.”

Fitzpatrick noted, for example, that the specific terms an attorney types into a Gen AI query box is going to have a big impact on the result that she is going to receive from the search. That makes it critical that firms invest in training their legal professionals on how to get the most out of their Legal AI tools.

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, 2024, in New York City. Watch the entire session, The New Legal Frontier, for more insights from industry leaders.