What Lawyers Really Think Of AI

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Most lawyers aren't worried about being replaced by robots, but they are broadly concerned about the accuracy and ethical implications of generative artificial intelligence, a new survey shows.

Potential "hallucinations" — when an AI model presents inaccurate information — and the technology's inability to grasp the complexities of legal ethics were among the top AI-related concerns cited by attorneys in Law360's 2024 AI Survey. Meanwhile, relatively few attorneys said they fear the loss of white-collar jobs as a result of AI.

The survey, conducted from Dec. 12, 2023 to Feb. 28, 2024, garnered 384 responses.

It showed that lawyers are divided on whether they think the adoption of AI will help or hurt their industry. Most attorneys think it will increase efficiency, but they also see many potential drawbacks, from incorrect information to the risk of malpractice suits.

A sizable 46% of lawyers took a neutral stance on AI, saying both the pros and cons are significant. Another 27% said the changes are likely to benefit legal practice overall, while 23% think they are likely to damage legal practice overall.

The survey revealed a significant gender difference in lawyers' perception of AI: While 30% of men reported a positive sentiment towards AI adoption in the legal industry, only 16% of women did.

Amid widespread worker worries about job loss related to AI, relatively few attorneys have that fear, the survey found.

Only one-quarter of lawyers see "loss of white collar jobs" as a negative effect of AI.

Similarly, just 23% said AI usage would lead to fewer billable hours.

"AI is a useful tool, but it's a tool," one survey respondent said. "It isn't a lawyer. Even when AI can analyze documents for evidence of fraud or concealment, or draft rudimentary motions, that doesn't mean it will replace lawyers. It won't. It may shave billable hours some, but many waves of technology have done that."

Some others weren't so sure about that.

"I do not see AI as a positive for the profession — a lot of lawyers will be out of work," said another attorney. "I know at least one Fortune 500 company whose in-house counsel told our firm that they would prefer to use AI rather than pay for outside counsel."

When asked what they envision as the negative effects of law firms' adoption of AI, most lawyers also cited issues with accuracy in learning and providing responses.

And two-thirds fear potential malpractice claims for AI usage.

More than half of respondents said they think AI could diminish opportunities for new lawyers to do basic legal work.

A lawyer supportive of using technology in legal practice was still concerned "about the loss of in-person relationships and mentoring that technologies can create."

"Generative AI could be great as a supplement, but not as a replacement for humans and human interaction," the lawyer said.

In lawyers' eyes, increased efficiency in administrative tasks stood out as an advantage of using AI, with 74% saying they saw that as a positive effect of firms' adoption of artificial intelligence.

About half think cost savings passed on to clients could be a benefit, and 41% think it would help their ability to expand their caseload due to streamlined work.

Only 26% envision expanded services to low-income clients arising from AI.

Meanwhile, most lawyers are uneasy about AI's imperfect grasp of legal ethics and standards. Just over three-quarters of respondents cited this issue as a concern.

"Only humans have conscience," one survey respondent wrote. "Depending on computers to tell us the 'right answers' may lead to erosion of our 'humanity.'"

Difficulty in maintaining client confidentiality, security and data privacy was another common concern, with almost 60% pointing to that as a concern.

With the AI landscape changing quickly, more than half of lawyers think there are challenges in keeping pace with rapid advances in the technology, the survey showed.

"Like any new technology, AI will be evolutionary," one attorney said. "I hope that safeguards can be built in and people will be able to control AI, not the other way around."

--Editing by Pamela Wilkinson, John Campbell, Rachel Reimer and Jack Collens. Graphics by Jason Mallory.

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



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