Artificial Intelligence in the Legal Sector – 48% of London law firms surveyed already using AI and a further 41% will soon start

The use of artificial intelligence (AI) in the legal sector is becoming increasingly common, but opinions vary on whether this increased reliance is a good or bad thing.

Increased Take-up of AI

A recent study of London law firms by CBRE revealed that 48% are already using AI and a further 41% will start to do so in the near future.

The most common uses of AI apparently include legal documentation generation and review (mentioned by 63% of firms), e-discovery (63%), due diligence (47%), research (42%), compliance and administrative support (both 32%).

A frequently expressed concern is that increased reliance on AI will lead to job cuts in the sector, particularly amongst junior lawyers and support roles. According to CBRE’s research, 45% of firms surveyed expect to see headcount fall at these levels. However, only 7% expect AI to lead to a reduction in headcount at a senior level.

Greater Flexibility

On the other hand, the use of AI can facilitate greater flexibility in working practices and environments, or “agile working” as the researchers described it. The research found evidence of a decline in the “traditional partner’s office culture”, and instead 33% of firms questioned reported operating more open or activity based working environments.

“We expect the proportion of firms engaging in activity-based agile working environments to increase in the coming years,” said Frances Warner Lacey, Senior Director, Central London Tenant Advisory Group, CBRE. “Compared with some other professional services businesses, such as consulting firms, the legal sector has been slow to adapt to agile working, but this is changing. Of the firms surveyed, 61% have now implemented agile working policies – a doubling since last year’s report.”

The Legal AI Form conducted its own research into AI in the legal sector, reports Legal Futures. Junior lawyers will be relieved to know that only 3% of legal professionals surveyed said they thought AI was “more accurate” than junior lawyers. However, around 75% still intend to invest in AI over the next two years as they believe it will give them a competitive edge and support their client service provisions.

AI Improves Efficiency of Serious Fraud Office

One organisation that appears to be convinced about the benefits AI can provide is the Serious Fraud Office.

It recently announced that it was using AI to automate its document analysis, claiming that this would allow it to investigate more quickly, reduce costs and achieve a lower error rate than through the work of human lawyers alone.

Its first AI-assisted venture involved the use of a pilot “robot”, which was used to scan for legal professional privilege content in a case at speeds 2,000 times faster than a human lawyer. In total, it managed to process more than half a million documents a day.

It is now also rolling out a new AI powered document review system, which it says will enable SFO case teams to better target their work and time in other aspects of investigative and prosecutorial work.

Like it or not, AI seems set to stay, and its integration into the operations of the legal sector is only likely to increase. It’s now up to law firms to establish how AI can best be utilised to serve their own interests.

See also our note on some of the Best Artificial Intelligence (AI) Software for Law Firms and for a more comprehensive summary of AI in the legal sector from a practitioner’s perspective, see Brian Inkster’s blawg post ‘Legal Conferences and Artificial Intelligence‘ and Avaneesh Marwaha’s post ‘Seven Benefits of Artificial Intelligence for Law Firms‘.

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