Byte of Prevention Blog

by Jay Reeves |

Small Firms Slow to Adopt AI

Don’t feel bad if you’re not using Artificial Intelligence tools to run everything in your office from conflicts checking to coffee-brewing – three-quarters of your colleagues haven’t jumped on the AI train, either.

That fact might surprise you, especially if you’ve been reading any recent articles on law practice management. Judging from the typical headline, you’d think AI is taking over the profession. The robots are here, and the expiration date for flesh-and-blood lawyers is fast approaching.

Or not. Could it be that the Age of the Machines has not yet dawned?

That’s the conclusion of a recent survey by Bloomberg Law, which found that only about one in four people who work at law firms and law departments say they are using technology tools based on artificial intelligence or machine learning.

“More than half of total respondents (54 percent) said they don’t use AI or machine learning tools,” writes Jonathan Hurtarte for Bloomberg Law. “A quarter said they didn’t know if they use them—which could reflect a knowledge gap and an underuse of valuable technology.”

The Bloomberg Law Legal Operations & Technology survey was conducted online. It questioned lawyers, IT personnel, managers and executives at private law firms and in-house departments on their use of legal tech tools.

Budget Restrictions, Knowledge Gaps

One reason for the low rate of AI adoption: tight budgets. Not to mention the fact that the law tends to lag behind other sectors in embracing technological change, as the survey points out. This is especially true at small and mid-size practices.

An interesting finding: a number of respondents said they weren’t exactly sure what technology they were using. Others said they were uncertain how it was actually supposed to function.

On the flip side, 25 percent of respondents said AI-enhanced technology has helped them attract at least one new client.

How are Firms and Departments Using AI?

Close to half of the surveyed firms (47 percent) said they use AI-enhanced tools for document review, while 41 percent used them for e-Discovery.

Other AI uses:

  • Drafting contracts
  • Legal research
  • Billing
  • Background checks on would-be jurors
  • HR functions

Insufficient funding was the main reason respondents said their firms haven’t been quicker to embrace AI. Other reasons: inadequate resources, a lack of “tech-savvy” in the workforce, unmotivated leadership, and being too busy to learn new systems.

One legal blogger said lawyers have “no trouble finding reasons not to adopt new tech.”

“Perhaps at the moment expectations of legal tech usage are simply higher than actual usage,” says one Bloomberg data analyst. “As more firms adopt various legal technologies, we’ll see these numbers increase.”

About the Author

Jay Reeves

Jay Reeves practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina. He was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. He is the author of The Most Powerful Attorney in the World, a collection of short stories from a law life well-lived, which as the seasons pass becomes less about law and liability and more about loss, love, longing, laughter and life's lasting luminescence.

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