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How AI Is Impacting the Legal Industry

In recent months, advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) have accelerated exponentially. AI is poised to reshape almost every sector of our economy, with the legal industry among the first impacted. 


A 2023 Goldman Sachs study estimates that AI could accomplish 44% of legal tasks today. As of early 2024, only 15% of lawyers use AI daily. By 2026, it’s predicted that over 70% of attorneys will rely upon generative AI in some capacity. TechTarget claims, "By 2028, the number of human lawyers in the U.S. could be cut by 25% or more.”

While AI promises to dramatically boost attorney productivity, it also poses considerable risks regarding accuracy, confidentiality, and even long-term financial considerations.

How the Legal Industry is Using AI in 2024

As of early 2024, every vendor in the legal software sector is incorporating some form of “generative AI” into their ecosystem. The technology promises to help legal professionals save time, lower costs, and improve the quality of tasks such as document creation, discovery, and workflow management. Already you can use it to:

  • Review and summarize a document.
  • Review a brief and outline the weaknesses.
  • Simplify jury submissions to a 10th-grade reading level.
  • Fill out a form based on a conversation with your client.

A September 2023 study by Harvard and the Boston Consulting Group examined AI's productivity impact on knowledge workers. When using AI, professionals accomplished 12% more tasks in 25% less time, with a 40% improvement in quality compared to their co-workers who didn’t use AI.

AI is already profoundly impacting “billable hours” and fee structures. Tasks that previously required 10-12 hours of attorney and paralegal time can now be accomplished in 1-2 hours. Some practice areas are moving to a fixed-fee model to recapture the value offered to clients.

Concerns for Law Firms

While the rise of AI in the legal profession seems inevitable, the technology is still in its infancy and comes with some risks regarding accuracy and privacy. 

AI Hallucinations and Inaccurate Research:

In these early days of AI, legal professionals primarily use “generative AI.” It is based on “large language models” (LLMs) trained on trillions of pieces of content to develop a conception of the real world. The current generation of LLMs can seem quite intelligent, but fundamentally, they are essentially “guessing” when they give you an answer. They don’t understand the context or the accuracy of the information they provide—sometimes, they “hallucinate.”

In Mata v. Avianca, Inc., Mr. Mata’s attorney leveraged Open AI’s GPT platform in June of 2023 to find precedent cases to support his brief. Unfortunately, the platform invented real-sounding cases that didn’t exist. The platform even tried to assure him that the cases were genuine. Opposition counsel discovered the error in their review of the brief.

Legal software solutions, such as Thompson Reuter’s CoCounsel Core product, address this risk via Retrieval-Augmented Generation (RAG). RAG technology greatly improves the accuracy of content created for the legal profession by limiting the responses generated to actual, verifiable facts. 

David Wilkins, a legal professor at Harvard, says, "AI is also getting much better and hallucinating less." This means there is potential for AI to become a trustworthy tool for lawyers in the near future.

In the meantime, law firms should double-check the accuracy of AI-generated resources or information before presenting their findings to a court.

Confidentiality Breaches and Cyber Attacks

When leveraging AI technology, attorneys also need to ensure they don’t accidentally breach client confidentiality. 

The LLM models mentioned earlier are “learning mechanisms.” As you use them, they incorporate your information and feedback into their training to improve their future results. Some LLMs, such as OpenAI’s GPT platform, operate in a “public domain.” 

Unfortunately, Samsung engineers learned this the hard way. They uploaded their chip designs so that GPT could help them solve a problem. Their intellectual property became part of the model and was accessible to competitors.

As legal professionals, it is possible to use public domain AI tools to assist with your tasks. It can help you draft a letter, assess the logic of your argument, or summarize information in the public domain. Just be careful not to use tools like GPT for confidential matters.

A new crop of “private domain” AI tools entered the market in 2024. Platforms like Microsoft Co-Pilot do not co-mingle your confidential data with the public. However, you might still have issues within a firm if you must maintain client confidentiality and segmentation between team members. The bottom line is that you need to tread carefully and validate how client information is stored and used within any AI systems you use.

Vital Cybersecurity Practices for Law Firms

Threat actors are also leveraging AI to improve their success rate when attacking your firm and clients. Their phishing emails sound more legitimate. They can even easily clone the voice and generate real-time video to impersonate you or your client. Cybersecurity has never been more critical.

Sound cyber hygiene is critical in safeguarding your clients' confidentiality, preserving your firm's reputation, and ensuring ongoing success. It’s vital that you consistently align your IT environment with an industry-standard cybersecurity framework. Studies show that if you maintain 80% alignment with a framework, you can lower your risk of ransomware by 97%.

Here are some strategies for implementing and upholding effective cybersecurity practices:

  • Implement a cybersecurity framework like the NIST CSF or CIS Controls.
  • Proactively identify and neutralize threats to mitigate risks.
  • Conduct regular security assessments, including penetration testing and vulnerability evaluations.
  • Prepare for potential security breaches by implementing the CIS Controls, a proven set of practices for risk mitigation.
  • Stay up-to-date with antivirus software updates to counter evolving viruses and malware.

Some firms enforce stringent security protocols and policies, often conducting risk assessments through third-party evaluations to ensure protocol effectiveness. With the increasing use of AI in the legal sector, third-party monitoring services aren’t just helpful for streamlining your practice but also a necessity for protecting your firm.

How EpiOn Can Help Your Law Firm

EpiOn is a high-maturity MSP focused on delivering Measurably Better IT. Serving Nashville, Knoxville, Chattanooga, and points in between. Our approach is built around the Measurably Better ITTM Framework that empowers innovative business leaders with simple metrics to help reduce risk, increase security, improve productivity, and fully leverage their IT investment. We believe that IT should be all about helping you achieve an Outcome with clear metrics and a shared definition of success. We specialize in full-service outsourced IT as well as co-managed IT. We also excel in cyber security, cloud solutions, and voice-over-IP for an additional layer of security. Our customer-focused framework strives to understand the unique needs and challenges of each client to provide the solution that’s best for them. Our framework and commitment are why we consistently rank among the top IT firms in the world.