Poll Results: Generative AI and the Legal Profession in 2024

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Poll Results: Generative AI and the Legal Profession in 2024

Generative artificial intelligence (gen AI) has swept the legal profession to the brink of unprecedented technological and regulatory transformation. 

In early 2024, DISCO and The Cowen Group surveyed legal practitioners from law firms, in-house legal departments, and ediscovery teams to generate a snapshot of the legal industry at the dawn of this watershed moment.

From the obstacles to adopting this new technology to its perceived benefits, we hope these key takeaways empower you and your legal practice to confidently navigate the future of AI.

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Key takeaway 1: Expect rapid adoption of gen AI within the next two years

72.5% of legal practitioners are either already using gen AI or plan to do so within the next two years, suggesting the legal profession is on the cusp of a significant transformation.

The data shows a significant adoption rate, with 20.3% of respondents indicating their organizations have already adopted gen AI in their routine legal processes. This, combined with 18.8% planning to adopt in less than six months and 17.4% in six months to a year, suggests a rapid embrace of AI technologies within the legal sector. 

What are the drivers? 70.8% say a primary driver for adopting gen AI is the efficiency boost, closely followed by the benefits of AI-powered data analysis (60.3%) and faster time to evidence (48.5%).

Key takeaway 2: The work of the human lawyer will become more strategic and tech-dependent

The integration of gen AI into the legal profession is anticipated to significantly alter the roles and day-to-day workflows of legal professionals – and to elevate, rather than replace, the work of the human lawyer.

80.8% of respondents predicted the streamlining of routine tasks to allow for human legal professionals to spend more time performing the high-level legal analysis they want to do. 

It’s unsurprising, then, that 64.7% of respondents expected the role of the lawyer to evolve to become more strategic. And 42.7% believe this change will require legal professionals of all levels to be more adept with emerging legal technology – positioning tech adopters to effectively leverage AI to enhance their practice.

Key takeaway 3: Biggest fears about adopting gen AI? Privacy and ethics

Complex litigation involving nuanced legal arguments, ethics, and areas heavily regulated with strict privacy concerns may be slower to adopt gen AI.

Our respondents’ key obstacles to adopting gen AI include concerns about:

  • Data security and privacy (74%)
  • Accuracy (58%)
  • Lack of clear regulations and guidelines (56.5%)

Additionally, respondents indicated they’d be extremely slow to adopt gen AI in workflows involving data security, privacy, and budgeting.

We are entering a new era in the legal landscape where the drive for operational efficiency and strategic advantage is tempered by caution, a need for technical proficiency and education, and clearly defined data privacy regulations.

Key takeaway 4: The workflows most immediately affected are document review and fact investigation 

Based on the survey results, gen AI is currently being used or anticipated to be used in a range of specific legal tasks.

The majority of responses indicated the tasks that would see the most immediate change from gen AI were document review (81%), fact investigation (72.5%) and finding relevant case law (59.5%).

As indicated in Key Takeaway 1, the bulk of that change is expected (by 57% of respondents) to take place within the next year – and would support respondents’ expected rises in efficiency and faster time to evidence.

If you’re ready to join the firms already using gen AI to dramatically improve accuracy and turnaround time for early case assessment and document review, check out Cecilia, DISCO’s secure gen AI suite for ediscovery, review, depositions, and more.

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With adoption of gen AI accelerating rapidly, the legal profession has an enormous amount of change to contend with in the next two years – and an enormous potential for growth as forward-looking firms and teams pursue a competitive edge.

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For a deep dive into respondent predictions, fears, perceived benefits and more about the entry of AI into the legal industry, download the full report here

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Juliette Richart Nova