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Trust me I’m a legal AI: Can the legal profession close the 'trust gap' with Gen AI?

July 10, 2024 (4 min read)

By Geoffrey D. Ivnik, Esq. | Director of U.S. Legal Markets, LexisNexis

Generative artificial intelligence (Gen AI) technology trained for the legal profession appears certain to transform the way that lawyers work. Before that can happen, lawyers and their clients need to develop trust in legal AI in the same way they trust an experienced associate.

Nearly 4 in 10 senior lawyers (37%) say their firms already use AI tools, but just 25% state they trust the technology to handle legal work, according to the LexisNexis Investing in Legal Innovation Survey.

To close this trust gap, law firms need to take some basic steps to build their lawyers’ and their clients’ confidence in Legal AI tools — once rolled out, this technology can create amazing new operational efficiencies and open new revenue streams. The first step is to understand what drives trust with the introduction of new technologies.

Testing new tools can help boost trust in Legal AI

Views on how quickly to embrace Legal AI are still very much in flux, with the vast majority of lawyers trying to carefully gauge how to proceed. Our survey found that only one in 10 lawyers have strong opinions on AI adoption either way. This caution has led some firms to take a wait-and-see approach.

But many industry leaders are issuing a warning: Innovation is advancing so rapidly that law firms better find a way to not be left behind. Greg Lambert, chief knowledge services officer at Jackson Walker, likens the current environment to a boat that is leaving the dock — the longer a firm waits to get on board, the further it will be out to sea and the harder it will be to catch it before it disappears.

How do firms start to close the trust gap so they can jump on board the AI boat? According to the recent Gen AI report, Gen AI in Law: A Guide to Building Trust, simply testing out new Gen AI tools can help to drive confidence among lawyers.

“We are knee-deep in testing Gen AI tools,” said Peter Geovanes, chief innovation and AI officer at McGuire Woods. “My favorite catchphrase that we tell our clients is we’re going to do this with ‘REM’, which stands for a responsible, ethical and measured approach. We have success criteria, we have use cases, we’re engaging with the attorneys, and we’re collecting metrics and feedback. We’re in a trust but verify mode — that’s how we build trust with the tool.”

Building trust must be central theme

One certain explanation for the trust gap, discussed in the Gen AI report, is the small number of cases in which Gen AI technology has produced inaccurate responses to queries and the lawyers involved failed to check the work output before using the AI-generated content in a court filing.

“There have been plenty of reports in the news and elsewhere as to the various ways that lawyers and law firms have gotten themselves into trouble by using generative AI without completely understanding the risks associated with it,” said Neil Posner, a principal at Chicago law firm Much Shelist. He notes that these headlines have also created significant skepticism among judges, who in some cases are now requiring lawyers to certify either that they are not using Gen AI or they have read everything that they have cited.

It seems that the key to building trust in the technology is to increase the exposure of legal practitioners and courts to Gen AI tools. Our innovation survey  uncovered that senior lawyers were more than twice as likely to trust Gen AI for legal work if they had already used it in a non-professional capacity.

“The change management process is aided mostly by getting hands-on experience with using the tools,” said Jeff Pfeifer, chief product officer at LexisNexis. “The more a lawyer has access to the tools, the more confident and comfortable they get interacting with the underlying capabilities.”

Pfeifer notes, however, that “there is a genuine risk in using tools that are not tuned and tailored for the legal market use cases.”

Law firms appear to be confident the trust gap will close in time and are anticipating steadily rising adoption of Legal AI tools. Nine in 10 lawyers (90%) responding to our survey said their firms will increase Gen AI investment over the next five years.

REPORT: Gen AI in Law: A Guide to Building Trust

We interviewed a variety of AI leaders from the legal profession to explore how law firms and corporations that embrace Legal AI are building trust in the use of this new technology. In addition to the section of the report we unpacked today, which addresses the key factors that drive trust, other sections of the report include:

  • Addressing concerns about accuracy and confidentiality;
  • The steps to building trust; and
  • Rethinking workflow, skills and culture.

Read the full report now: Gen AI in Law: A Guide to Building Trust.