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19 March 2024

Key Takeaways from CLI Auckland Roundtable on “How GenAI is changing legal practice…way beyond the tech” (6 March)

Published on 19 March 2024

The Centre of Legal Innovation (CLI) kicked off its 2024 Roundtable Series with an outstanding in-person session in Auckland on 6 March on “How GenAI is changing legal practice…way beyond the tech.”

Huge thanks to Tom Maasland, Tila Hoffman, Erin Cairney and Sean Dolan at MinterEllisonRuddWatts for hosting us. With around 15 months having passed since ChatGPT burst onto the global market, it was the right time for us to come together and a great opportunity to benchmark where we have come from, where we are, and what’s on the agenda for 2024 in the legal GenAI space…and beyond!

CLI has had the great privilege of hosting many Roundtables over our nearly 8 years of being, facilitating them is always something I look forward to, it’s a joy to witness, every time, the generosity and commitment of our participants.

The Roundtables create a time and place to exchange information, foster experience sharing, and encourage learning – we bring together professionals from as many of the legal ecosystem stakeholder groups as we possibly can – it encourages us all to explore the topic from different points of view. It’s 90 minutes of connecting and reflecting in a way we hope helps us all to do more and better so, another huge thank you to everyone who attended.

Erin Cairney very kindly complied these key takeaways from the Roundtable – thank you Erin!

Key Takeaways

  1. Understanding Generative AI (GenAI) Adoption
    • Focus on systems, use cases, processes, risk, and governance with discussions about the adoption of GenAI tools.
    • Majority of individuals ranked themselves 3 out of 5 on the scale for GenAI knowledge and application (Scale: 1 = just beginning; 3 = experimenting but not yet determined uses; 5 = using it daily in my practice).
    • Majority of attendees ranked their organisations 2.5 out of 5 for GenAI knowledge and application (same scale as above).
    • Most firms/organisations are still identifying and exploring use cases and are hesitant/cautious.
  1. Initial Experiments and Concerns
    • Some tools have been created based on ChatGPT.
    • Focus on play and experimentation e.g., write an email with no confidential information using GenAI.
    • Job security nervousness, particularly in the tech sector, due to GenAI.
    • Hackathons can be used to generate use cases and build excitement.
    • US market is hot, many products – but adoption is not high due to economic climate and regulatory factors.
    • Culture matters and influences whether your organization perceives GenAI as an opportunity or a threat.
    • Concern about uncertainty and what people are allowed to do – junior lawyers need guidance and support.
    • Most organisations are going through a process of awareness raising; learning terminology and language; developing skills and confidence.
    • Learning and development programme – seniors need to be involved and supportive.
    • Digital divide could increase between those who can afford expensive tools/add on modules and those who cannot. Particularly evident in research where content is king.
  1. Tools and Implementation Strategies
    • Build or buy – there are pros and cons of developing in-house tools or using external providers.
    • Preparing the environment must precedes tool rollouts – data quality is critical.
    • Change management process, communication, and training all need to be considered.
    • It’s a journey, we need to bring people along – all have differing levels of knowledge and enthusiasm.
    • Some clients asking if GenAI has been used, if not, why not. These clients are expecting answers to questions in e.g., the following areas: ethical, legal and practical implementations of data governance, management, and ringfencing of data/client matters.
    • Collaborating with clients on tools, adaption and use cases helpful and important.
    • Virtual legal ops; virtual paralegals being created:
      • Advantage: Ability to communicate in multiple languages for global teams.
      • Generate a document with references and links to open access legislation and case law to provide a solution to a problem (not advice as it as a paralegal not a lawyer).
  1. Need to work closely with providers about data security, privacy, quality, etc.

  2. Small problems can lead to significant hesitancy – need to be transparent and proactive g., critical question being asked: which jurisdiction is data being processed in?

  3. GenAI Committees are being created and tasked with internal and external facing policy creation, guidelines and use cases.

  4. AI Officers have emerged as a new role and query if this role will become more prevalent.

  5. Use Cases and Metrics
    • Use cases include: document assembly, review, summarisation, legal research, contract matrix, procurement contract metrics, litigation success prediction tools.
    • Success metrics include ROI, time savings, cost reduction, risk mitigation, adoption rates, and firm performance.
    • Deliberations around shifting from billable hours to value billing now includes a new element i.e., the need to recover investments in tech tools. Many factors in all of this – we’ve all been talking about AFAs FOREVER!
    • Productivity tracking aids helpful in communicating the value of legal services.
    • AI impacts internal work practices, team structures, and adaptation to change.
    • Embedding AI within the organisation requires dedicated roles and time.
    • Boards should treat AI implementation strategically.
    • Ethical judgment and problem-solving skills will become increasingly important, particularly for law students.
    • Legal education will need to change to incorporate GenAI usage.
    • Considerations include whether changes are incremental or radical.
    • The future of lawyers and legal practice generates excitement, with varying levels of anticipation.
  1. Future of lawyers and legal practice: Most ranked themselves 4 or 5 out of 5 for their positive feelings about the future of lawyers and legal practices (Scale: 1 = depressed; 3 = neutral – not clear yet on where this is all going; 5 = positive and keen (there is a place for what we do, it’s different, and I’m and keen to be a part of it).