By Legal Futures Associate iManage
2023 goes down in history as the breakout year for large language models and generative AI globally, and across every industry. Law firms and technology developers have vied to take the spot of ‘industry first’ in a show of innovation and technological advancement.
As generative has AI displayed its potential to disrupt, provide opportunities and positively transform, it has also highlighted a myriad of challenges, security concerns and ethical considerations. 2024 will reshape the narrative.
Jan Van Hoecke, VP of AI Services, iManage, offers his view on what to expect, in terms of how firms will adopt generative AI and how the vendor landscape will evolve.
Some trends to look out for in 2024:
In-house experimentation will ramp down
It used to be the case that if law firms wanted to play around with AI, they needed a small army of data scientists to get started. Not anymore: generative AI has drastically lowered the barrier to entry. Developers can now integrate AI with a simple API.
Users can experience the power of AI for themselves through a simple natural language interface. As a result, almost every law firm has done some in-house experimentation with generative AI.
Over the coming year, we expect law firms to move from in-house experimentation and development to off-the-shelf products. This is for several reasons. For starters, there’s the expense: while generative AI might be user friendly, it’s not cheap – and until AI delivers tangible value to clients, firms only have one customer to write off the expense of their AI development effort against – themselves.
Vendors, by contrast, can spread the cost of developing an enterprise-grade AI tool across a wide customer base. Customers will increasingly turn to vendors they trust to have their AI needs met, especially as the more established vendors start to fold AI into their existing offerings.
Those who take a thoughtful approach will lead the pack
Much of the past 12 months has been spent by firms collectively having their eyes opened to generative AI, often followed immediately thereafter by urgent talk of “What are we doing with generative AI? We should be doing something with generative AI.”
The hastiness of 2023 will be replaced by a more thoughtful and measured approach in 2024. Rather than jumping into generative AI for the sake of it, more firms will take the time to ask: what business problems are we trying to solve – and where can AI assist with those problems? Is AI the best solution, and if so, what else do we need to put in place? What are the high value applications of AI, and which applications are more or less cosmetic?
It’s more important than ever for firms to really understand the strengths and limitations of this technology – as well as what prerequisites are necessary to get the most out of it, including the state of their own data and information architecture. Firms that cultivate this level of maturity will lead the pack when it comes to successfully leveraging this latest form of AI.
The AI “Cambrian explosion” has begun – and some vendors will go extinct
We have entered the “Cambrian explosion” phase of generative AI, in which a flurry of new legal tech startups sprout into existence seemingly overnight. As with any explosion of this nature, there will be some startups that succeed – but many will die off.
The vendors that succeed will be the ones that have a full understanding of their customers’ actual day to day lives and workflows, rather than those that are simply relying on hype or the AI ‘wow’ factor. Those companies that truly understand the end users’ world will be the ones that endure – because the AI hype train will only carry vendors so far.
As the hype dies down, customers will demand an ROI from the tools they’ve invested in – and that demand for better business outcomes will naturally favour vendors that have a deep knowledge of the way customers work and how best to support them.
Those that aren’t able to build that industry-specific knowledge into their product offerings will naturally start to go extinct, thinning the herd.
Old ways of accessing knowledge will continue to coexist with generative AI
As generative AI stormed the scene over the past year with its snazzy Q&A interface, some people wondered if existing ways of accessing knowledge – such as keyword search, or templates – would become redundant.
The fact is there’re different entry points into knowledge depending on what someone’s trying to do. If someone already knows the template they want to use, even down to the document number, a generative AI interface might not add that much value.
If someone is looking for the best resource for a particular topic, however, and doesn’t even know where to start, a generative AI-powered Q&A interface can be hugely valuable.
While generative AI is certainly a new arrow in the search and knowledge quiver that’s capable of unlocking new capabilities, traditional approaches are still going to be highly relevant in the coming year, and all approaches will rely on clean, well-structured data sets to deliver best results.