AI and lawyers: Finding common ground

According to Thomson Reuters’ Report on the State of the Legal Market, 85% of law firms plan to increase their investments in technology this year. This is a scary statistic, especially for law firms that find the topic daunting. It will put partners under pressure to adopt AI without necessarily having a strategy in place to ensure it is integrated successfully. Like with all technology implementations, expecting your employees will simply accept this new process or adopt the new tool without a detailed plan is unrealistic.

Not all law firms are affected by the ‘fear of missing out’ (‘FOMO’) many continue to implement their strategy of ‘avoid and deny’ and soldier on in the traditional way because they don’t want to change the way they work.

In a recent poll, we asked ‘at your law firm, what do partners think of AI?’ and we were not surprised that the majority of partners associated AI with change. As a result, they are the likely followers of the ‘avoid and deny’ strategy, sticking their heads in the sand, figuratively speaking.

Some law firms are beginning to invest in AI, albeit reluctantly, as a result of client demand. This often means the law firms are limiting the use of this technology to specific projects and are not taking full advantage of the benefits. Despite the increase of investments, very few law firms would hold their hands up to fully supporting and embracing these changes. 

So the question is how can you drive change without ruffling too many feathers along the way? One way to approach this challenge is to step into the shoes of a lawyer and empathise with their hopes and fears of technology entering the legal realm.

Put yourself in their shoes

Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes in no mean feat, however a good starting point is to build an empathy map (see example above) for the partners in your law firm. It’s likely that you may hear some similar sentiments across the team which resonate with our example map above. This will help you begin to set the tone and better understand the general consensus around the topic of legal technology within your law firm.

Despite the likelihood of cognitive dissonance rearing its ugly head, with partners publicly supporting innovation and yet rarely using any legal technology in their day-to-day, the bottom line is that partners want their clients to be successful. This is vital and the common ground on which you can build a successful strategy.


There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ strategy

This may be obvious, but all law firms are different so there is really no ‘one-size-fits-all’ strategy. However, you can get an idea of the type of strategy to build based on where your law firm sits on the below adoption status graph.

This graph measures the stakeholder buy-in against the user needs in relation to the technology.

If you are an observer – you are likely to be waiting on the sidelines, perhaps feeling a certain degree of FOMO as you wait for the right project. Your strategy should be to start small rather than being intimidated by the big players. As a first step, aim to get one partner on board with a single project to be able to deliver productivity gain on a smaller scale.

If you are a pragmatist – you are likely to be using AI on specific client projects (often due to client demand rather than internal pressure) so the technology benefits are generally not visible to the entire law firm…yet. Try to work on internal communication and aim to replicate across the firm.

If you are a visionary – you are in a fortunate position in that the leadership believes in AI so you have that all important stakeholder buy-in, however there isn’t currently enough investment in understanding the fit and need of the lawyers that will use the technology. The first priority for law firms in this position is to invest in a legal tech team to provide this kind of understanding.

If you are an innovator – you are already delivering value on multiple projects but you are lacking sufficient stakeholder buy-in to get to the next stage. This is where a champion network of partners who are vocal about the benefits of legal technology plays a crucial role.

If you are a leader – you are at the top of your game but you are aware of how rapidly the legal tech and AI market is developing. You are conscious of the huge developments in Natural Language Processing and how those advances drive legal technology. Your next move is to ensure that you are investing time and money into the most relevant and future proof technology that works for all the partners at your law firm.

Change management needs to be a priority for all legal tech teams when introducing new technology to a law firm or legal department. In order to make your strategy successful you need to first define why and how you are going to implement it and develop tactics that will work for you. In our recent webinar ‘How to build a winning strategy for European law firms’ we discuss some tactics that we have seen to be successful in the past.


AI will not change the fundamental strategy of the law firm

This is a key message. It’s a common and misguided concern that as soon as AI and legal technology finds its way into the legal sector, that lawyers will become obsolete. AI will change the legal landscape considerably by delivering value faster, bringing into question ingrained habits like the billable hour model, but what it won’t change is the need for a lawyer’s judgement, those human abilities to analyse and make decisions based on the predictions from the AI. 

Returning to the common ground that we established earlier, partners want their clients to be successful. AI does not change this goal, it makes the goal more attainable for the lawyers in a significantly shorter time frame. So far from taking the lawyer’s job, AI makes lawyers perform their job to a significantly higher standard. A recipe for success, you might say.


How to build a winning AI strategy for European law firms
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