Where Lawyers Stand On Generative AI Tools

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Lawyers are approaching generative artificial intelligence with caution, despite its promised advantages, and the use of legal AI tools is only slowly catching on, according to a new survey.

Generative AI involves the use of models that can create original content. There's been no shortage of these tools in the legal field since OpenAI's ChatGPT launched in late 2022. Several new startups have emerged, and legacy providers are adding this technology to their offerings.

However, only about a third of the 384 lawyers who participated in Law360 Pulse's 2024 AI Survey said their firms work with at least one generative AI provider. Half said that they weren't working with any generative AI vendor.

Sean Monahan, a senior director in the strategy and transformation practice at legal operations services provider Harbor Global, told Law360 Pulse there's a range of generative AI adoption options among law firms. While some have already adopted or avoided AI, most firms are still exploring these platforms before moving forward.

"They're looking at everything. They're piloting everything. They're demoing everything," Monahan said. "But I think there's trepidation to invest too much too quickly."

A few firms are avoiding these tools because of concerns about data privacy. Monahan said there also might be an "automation paradox," with some firms concerned that they will spend too much for a tool that might not save that much time.

Several law firm leaders have expressed concern about the enormous price tag for some generative AI tools.

Among the participants in Law360 Pulse's survey, more than 60% said they do not have plans to use generative AI for billing, compliance, trial preparation or preparing a court filing.

Use in other areas looks likely to take a large leap. Legal research was the most popular so far, with 22% of respondents saying they currently use a generative AI tool. But a substantially larger portion — 37% — plan on using generative AI for the same task in the future. And while just 15% of respondents are currently using platforms for e-discovery or technology assisted review, 38% plan on using the technology.

Monahan said it is only a question of when, not if, more law firms will use these tools in the future.

Specific Tools

Lawyers were asked about their use of over 30 popular generative AI tools on the market. About 40% of respondents said their firms are not using any of these tools.

GPT-4 large language model-powered Bing search and Microsoft Copilot were the most common AI tools, with 27% and 16% using those tools, respectively.

Microsoft rebranded its Bing tool as Copilot in November, 2023. Monahan said that its presence in law firms is growing, because many already have it included in a Microsoft enterprise license.

"It's meant to be a part of your universe," Monahan said.

Copilot can be used for general productivity purposes such as drafting emails or creating marketing copy.

But the use of Copilot might be more about education than application. Monahan said that firms use Copilot to educate their staff about generative AI because it's considered less risky than some of the other, more specific, litigation AI tools on the market.

"There's no clear winner other than, obviously, the investment in [the] Microsoft relationship," Monahan said.

Nearly 15% of survey respondents said they use LexisNexis' Lexis+ AI, 12% use Google's AI tool Bard, 8% use Casetext CoCounsel, 5% use Thomson Reuters' Copilot plugin, and about 2% use Relativity's AI tool aiR.

Monahan said that there's some traction among this group of tools in law firms because they already have existing relationships and are trusted names among attorneys.

In 2023, Thomson Reuters acquired Casetext for $650 million and plans on integrating the tool into its platform.

Even with all of the publicity, legal generative AI startups are failing to make an impression on law firms, according to the survey. Only 1% of respondents said that they were using Harvey, the legal startup that raised over $100 million.

Several legacy brands with new generative AI — such as the new AI tools from Clio, vLex/Fastcase, Evisort and Ironclad — are only used by a tiny fraction of respondents.


Some experts have said that generative AI can make the discovery process more efficient.

However, over half of the respondents are not using any e-discovery generative AI tools. Relativity was the most frequently cited option in the survey, with more than 17% of respondents using this e-discovery platform's AI.

Most of the 20 tools listed in the survey had fewer than 5% of respondents using each. About 6% of respondents wrote in alternative e-discovery tools that were not listed. Nearly 5% used Casepoint while about 4% used Everlaw.

Monahan said firms might be hesitant to use generative AI for e-discovery because some courts may not find it acceptable to use AI instead of a more traditional model such as technology assisted review.

Another roadblock might be cost. While generative AI might be more cost-effective from a total value standpoint, Monahan said that the technology may not lend itself to being cost-effective from a pure tech perspective. That's because the cost of generative AI is sometimes based on usage, which can add up and foil a return on investment.

Law Firm Size

CJ Webster, president of C Webster Consulting LLC, told Law360 Pulse that early adopters of generative AI are still trying to figure out how AI fits into their firm's workflow. Others are still cautiously exploring AI.

"I believe the early adopters stage will be influenced by the launch of new products in 2024, particularly focusing on workflow solutions for efficient document drafting," Webster told Law360 Pulse in an email.

Monahan said that most of the law firms he works with are in the top 200 in size and are at least exploring the use of AI.

According to Monahan, the early adopters are buying these tools and developing custom generative AI platforms. These are mostly large law firms with resources and internal AI teams.

Jared D. Correia, the CEO of Red Cave Law Firm Consulting, told Law360 Pulse that while BigLaw is hyperaggressive with AI, smaller firms "aren't touching the stuff."

"Building or buying AI software is expensive; and, they don't want to spend the money," Correia wrote. "Small firm lawyers don't understand how the technology works, and won't make the time to learn about it/test it."

Correia added that smaller firms are concerned about publicizing sensitive and confidential data to AI programs. That is because some public generative AI tools train on this data and there have been instances where companies have leaked private data through these programs. Correia said that smaller firms may also lack the ability to control their staff when using AI.

Only about 10% of survey respondents said their law firms are developing their own internally built generative AI tool.

Debbie Foster, the CEO of Affinity Consulting, said that small firms are not building their own AI tools now because they lack access to developers.

"Generally speaking, many smaller firms are still trying to figure out how they would incorporate AI into their practice in a safe and secure way," Foster wrote to Law360 Pulse. "Dreaming up a tool that would require development scoping and resources is just not something that is frequent in a small firm."

Foster added that there are exceptions to this, but they are just that: exceptions.

--Editing by Pamela Wilkinson, John Campbell, Rachel Reimer and Jack Collens. Graphic by Jason Mallory.

Note: Law360 is owned by LexisNexis Legal & Professional, a RELX company.
Clarification: This article has been updated to clarify that Harbor Global provides legal operations services.

For a reprint of this article, please contact reprints@law360.com.



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