Online safety and privacy are primary sticking points for lawyers
Alan Votary is LexisNexis’s product team lead for Canada. He spoke with Canadian Lawyer about how generative AI shook up the legal tech world in 2023 and what he predicts for 2024. Answers have been edited for length and clarity.
How would you sum up 2023 regarding the development of AI in the legal profession?
There was such an incredible amount of change in such a short time. If we look back to the end of 2022, when most of us are happily making our plans for what we're going to do in the next year, I don't think any of us could have predicted how much it would change from that point until the end of 2023.
We typically don't see things moving that fast in the legal profession. It's something that they're embracing. They want to know about it. They want to work with it. That level of interest and participation allows us to move incredibly fast.
Over the last ten years, our organization has invested over $1 billion to be agile and respond to new technologies. It's something that we were able to dive in and make sure that we were riding this wave – and leading this wave in many ways.
Where in their operations are law firms and other organizations effectively optimizing their services with AI?
It's important to note that this is still early in the journey. Many of them are at the front edge of that optimization. It's something that they're evaluating. Partners are learning about it and identifying how it will work for them as they go forward.
In our conversations with customers, we hear that the major gains in efficiency are where the transformational change comes from. In some of our survey feedback, we're hearing that people think they will save six or seven hours per week per lawyer on the individual tasks they are covering with AI. That amount of efficiency can impact how these firms work, what types of work they take on, and the ability to meet the increasing workload despite the same amount of resources.
How can firms and other organizations grow to truly capitalize on these technological advancements?
It's about selecting partners to work with and educating staff on the right and wrong ways to use things. There will be some bumps along the way as people work through those details. We seek people looking at AI as part of their organization because we can work with them to help them speed up that process.
What are the main benefits and risks of the AI revolution in legal services?
The main benefit is efficiency, ensuring lawyers have extra time to serve clients and grow business.
The risks are a bigger discussion. It is a new technology, and we've all heard the horror stories of lawyers using publicly available tools like ChatGPT, where hallucinations occur, and submitting court cases that didn't exist.
The real risk here is around the misuse of the technology or taking shortcuts.
It is essential to make sure that lawyers are using tools designed for legal use cases and grounded in legal content, that they've accounted for security and privacy, and that they're protecting their clients and their intellectual property.
What do you expect to be the main trends in 2024 regarding AI in the legal field?
In 2023, everything took off, and products started flying out. What you’re going to see, within that broad consensus, is more products that are enabling AI.
In 2024, we will ride the wave from 2023 in the Canadian space. The big generative AI products that came out in 2023 were largely south of the border. Now, it's about bringing those to Canada, and as more products come, ensuring firms are adopting them and incorporating them in their processes.
Is there anything else you'd like to mention that we haven’t covered?
That security and privacy piece is the number one thing we hear from clients. It's the gatekeeper. Without those things being dealt with, they won't move forward.
The commercial cloud providers we work with enable us to have that level of security and privacy in the way we deploy our solutions. Those are common themes that we hear from every customer we talk to.
The second primary trend is related to education. We ran a survey last year in the Canadian market. We explained what prompts were, gave them some examples, and asked them to submit the prompts they would use if they had the tool in front of them. The large variety of answers showcased the need for education to continue.
There is also an education theme, ensuring people can use it effectively. LexisNexis recently launched the AI Insiders program, and legal professionals across the country can sign up for free.