Law Firms Aren't Feeling AI Fatigue, Yet

This article has been saved to your Favorites!
The term "AI fatigue" has already entered the lexicon of mainstream culture as innovation in generative software seems to move at breakneck speed, but many legal professionals focused on technology for their firms, like Evan J. Shenkman, don't see it that way.

In fact, Shenkman, chief knowledge and information officer at Fisher Phillips, told Law360 Pulse that he is excited about the future prospects of AI, short for artificial intelligence.

"I think I'm feeling more exhilarated than exhausted," Shenkman said. "Legal tech has had years of being on the cusp of something extraordinary, and all of a sudden it is not only here, but much [more] powerful and versatile than we thought it would be."

Dan Surowiec, the chief information officer at Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner LLP, isn't feeling any AI fatigue either.

"I think it's one of the most interesting times in my 20 [plus] years in the field," Surowiec told Law360 Pulse.

While there's no formal definition for AI fatigue, the term typically refers to feeling overwhelmed with persistent exposure to the big-data generative software known as AI, and has been a hot topic in the legal industry since OpenAI LLC released its chatbot ChatGPT in late November. The tool can create text based on data that it has been trained on.

Since then, the tools have taken the world by storm.

Google searches for the term "artificial intelligence" have tripled since late November, according to Google Trends.

In the business world, references to AI and similar terms during earnings calls with investors surged by 77%, according to a 2023 Bloomberg report.

It is not uncommon for legal professionals to feel bombarded by the implications of this new technology.

AI fatigue can materialize in many ways, such as feeling worn down from keeping up with the latest developments, which can seem daily in the legal industry. It may also be skepticism about the potential impact of generative tools in the profession or fear that they might take jobs traditionally done by lawyers.

As many as 44% of legal jobs are at risk due to generative tools, Goldman Sachs said in a March study.

Even so, some law firms are brushing off the fatigue and embracing them head-on, while recognizing the need for caution in some areas.

Full Steam Ahead

Reed Smith LLP is going all in. The BigLaw firm recently posted a job listing for its first director of applied AI.

"While we're still developing the business case and still exploring the tools, we're going ahead and investing in this role and building up a team because we're just taking the positive assumption that this is going to be a big impact," David Cunningham, chief innovation officer for Reed Smith, told Law360 Pulse. "It may not all be ready yet, but we know it's coming, and so this is a good time to start getting really good at it."

This will be Reed Smith's first director-level role exclusively focused on developing generative models and understanding from a scientific perspective how those models work, Cunningham said.

The new director will report to Cunningham and focus on the firm's adoption of generative tools. Reed Smith is running pilot programs with commercial GPT-based systems and testing them in areas such as e-discovery and docketing alerts.

GPT stands for generative pre-trained transformers, which is the learning model that uses data to produce content.

The firm will build on its current use of generative tools for tasks such as e-discovery and contract analytics, which Reed Smith has been using for years.

Cunningham said he isn't fatigued. Instead, he said the firm is pushing providers of commercial generative systems to expand their functionality.

While Reed Smith is evaluating these commercial GPT tools, the firm is also developing its own. Cunningham said they will be used internally by attorneys and staff.

Reed Smith's GPT models will be private, unlike the public versions, in order to protect the firm's confidential data, according to Cunningham.

One of the potential goals of these GPT pilot projects is to see if the technology might be able to cut down on billable hours by helping professionals complete some tasks quicker with no loss in quality. Cunningham said that this might happen in certain practice areas.

The Concerns Over AI

Excitement aside, some worries have even those embracing the technology proceeding with caution.

Supervision of the models' output will be key for Reed Smith, for example. Even when the technology can generate a document, Cunningham said an attorney would still need to review it before it gets sent out.

"We wouldn't expect an associate to draft a document and send it right to the client without a partner review," Cunningham said.

There's also still a concern from attorneys about the role of these tools.

That topic came up a few weeks ago during a Reed Smith retreat with dozens of partners, according to Cunningham. The discussion lasted for about two hours.

"It was a mix of not understanding necessarily how it will impact me, but also the excitement of 'there's so much that I could get done if I could move faster,'" Cunningham said. "It's a little bit of both anxiousness with some eagerness."

Even with the hype, most legal professionals today seldom use generative tools, according to a survey from LexisNexis Legal & Professional in March.

Furthermore, experts said that while they aren't fatigued by AI, the marketing for legal products has reached a fever pitch.

Shenkman said he has been inundated with pitches for generative products. Surowiec said some vendors appear to be adding "AI" as a marketing term to older tech.

"I'm most concerned about all the massive updates and competition that will be emerging as vendors scramble to incorporate generative AI in their products," Joseph L. Fousek, chief information officer at Bond Schoeneck & King PLLC, told Law360 Pulse. "Everything will be pricey out of the gate."

Several legal tech providers have jumped on the bandwagon and released their own tools in the past few months, hoping to capture the attention of law firms as the first out of the gate with these products.

Fousek has several questions about the new legal products on the market, such as: Which tool will perform well? Which will get to reasonable pricing quickly? Which vendors will get left in the dust and which vendors will leapfrog the market leaders?

There are many changes coming in the next few years, and the opportunities and pitfalls will be scary and expensive to navigate, according to Fousek.

"Firms will have to be judicious in choosing where to invest," Fousek said. "We will pass on what is 'really neat' and look for advanced tools that impel clients to engage with us."

--Additional reporting by Tracey Read. Editing by Alex Hubbard and Brian Baresch.


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

×

Law360

Law360 Law360 UK Law360 Tax Authority Law360 Employment Authority Law360 Insurance Authority Law360 Real Estate Authority

Rankings

Social Impact Leaders Prestige Leaders Pulse Leaderboard Women in Law Report Law360 400 Diversity Snapshot Rising Stars Summer Associates

National Sections

Modern Lawyer Courts Daily Litigation In-House Mid-Law Legal Tech Small Law Insights

Regional Sections

California Pulse Connecticut Pulse DC Pulse Delaware Pulse Florida Pulse Georgia Pulse New Jersey Pulse New York Pulse Pennsylvania Pulse Texas Pulse

Site Menu

Subscribe Advanced Search About Contact