What’s the real impact of AI?

Wednesday 10 May, 2023

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What’s the real impact of AI? Paul Hobden answers three questions from Practice Managers.

AI might be getting a lot of press in the legal sector, but how is it really going to affect law firms operationally in the near future? Is it a game-changer, a disruptor, a technology revolution in the making? Or is it a trend that’s getting a lot of hot air, but little real uptake in the sector?

While some practices are surging forward to implement AI and discover the differences it can make to their business, it seems that many are still wary. At our recent Practice Managers’ Breakfast, it became clear that across the sector, firms are at vastly different stages in their exploration of AI – ranging from those who are rapidly introducing bots to take on tedious administrative tasks and free up more time for fee-earning work, to those who are only starting to discuss AI: and even then, doing so cautiously.

So, what exactly is causing this disparity in the sector – and how can Practice Managers help their firms to get over the hurdles, feel excited about AI, and drive change?

Here, Insight Legal’s Director of Operations, Paul Hobden, answers three questions from Practice Managers about the practical possibilities of AI in the legal sector.

“Is AI really going to impact efficiency and productivity in our law firm?”

AI will have a profound effect on efficiencies. We are already experiencing the impact of automation on routine tasks, but AI enables automation and efficiencies to non-routine tasks, and that’s a paradigm shift. It opens a world of possibilities.

“What advantage does AI have over automation when it comes to compliance?”

Compliance is about following a set of rules, and automation is great for this: it’s easy to apply and easy to audit. But AI is slightly different. The power of AI is its ability to make judgment calls between competing options, not simply follow routines and processes. While I believe many of the current compliance requirements will be easier to manage and easier to audit, AI is going to throw up an array of new ethical and compliance issues. For instance, who audits your AI algorithm for bias?

“How will AI impact our profitability?”

AI will definitely make some firms significantly more profitable, but others will be driven out of business. Some firms will benefit by using AI to be more efficient and profitable, enhancing the way they already do things, but really the big opportunity is for disruptors, who fundamentally rethink their work process and work with AI to enable this change. There needs to be an investment in digitisation, automation and, ultimately, AI for law firms to experience the bottom-line benefit, and to really be ready for disruption over the next decade.

At Insight Legal, we’ve been listening to Practice Managers – the unsung heroes of the legal sector – to hear their thoughts on AI and answer their questions. At our recent breakfast event, we brought Practice Managers from a diverse cross-section of firms together to discuss the state of play with AI in the community, and hear their expectations for the future of the technology in their firms.

You can learn more from their in-depth discussion on AI here.