Only a handful of legal professionals believe that artificial intelligence (AI) software is more accurate than junior lawyers and thus a reason for acquiring it, according to a survey.
But over three-quarters planned to invest in AI systems within the next two years nevertheless, mainly to remain competitive and provide a better service to clients.
The trends report survey, Artificial intelligence and the future of law, was produced by the Legal AI Forum, in advance of its conference in September.
The forum has prominent legal individuals as members, including Christina Blacklaws, vice-president of the Law Society.
Other members include Stephen Allen, global head of legal services at Hogan Lovells, Adam Hembury, director of innovation at DLA Piper, and Anthony Vigneron, legal technology director at Clifford Chance.
The forum interviewed 200 legal sector professionals. Among businesses which already used AI, the biggest contingent – over a quarter – applied it to contract review, and a fifth to legal research.
Popular targets for future investment in AI included contract review, AI for IP, legal analytics, and prediction technology.
More than half said the object of investment in AI was to improve the productive capacity of the firm, with a quarter highlighting meeting client demands for greater efficiency.
However, just 3% believed AI was “more accurate than junior lawyers” and therefore a commercial factor behind implementing it.
The main reason respondents had not acquired AI technology was a lack of knowledge of what was available. Nearly half pinpointed either insufficient knowledge or a “minimal understanding” of how AI could bring improvements.
Three-quarters agreed AI would “have a significant impact upon the relationships between private practice and clients”.
Nine out of 10 were even more confident that AI was suitable for the legal industry than they were in 2017.
The survey’s authors predicted: “Platform-sharing rather than billable hours may become the core of collaboration, with some law firms are already using AI to offer such services to their clients.”
They concluded: “Achieving success through AI is not simply about purchasing software, but ensuring that is thoughtfully incorporated into your business.”