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 Artificial Intelligence

The impact of AI on the Legal World

NeoSmart,  March 7, 2024

A ThomsonReuters report on the use of ChatGPT in law firms includes a statement from Charlotte Woolven-Brown:

It was March 2023 and the head of the Employment and Partner unit at UK law firm Sternberg Reed emphasised: "In six months’ time, everyone in the firm will be using it [ChatGPT]. And there’s no way to stop it, because people will be closer and closer to what’s happening and how fast this technology is developing.

The quote is revealing, especially as it comes from the head of employment at a prominent London law firm. It leaves two interesting insights. On the one hand, it expresses an authoritative opinion within the legal sector on the impact of AI. And it also points to the speed with which some law firms want to implement artificial intelligence tools.

Like any technological innovation, AI brings opportunities and challenges. But all indications are that it will increase efficiencies and reduce the number of hours lawyers have to work. However, the impact will be different for law firms depending on their size. Independent practitioners will be more agile in using generative AI tools. Larger firms, while more difficult to manoeuvre, will need robust strategies to implement artificial intelligence in their day-to-day work.

Independent lawyers and small law firms facing AI

The transformation that AI will drive in the legal practice for independent lawyers could be major. Bear in mind that the limiting factor for a self-employed lawyer is time. There are only so many hours in the day, so any time savings are welcome. And this is precisely where AI can help.

Searching for critical data in legal documents and other information, as well as reviewing a contract or drafting texts, are all tasks that can be streamlined with AI. In this way, professionals reduce the time they spend on certain types of work and can concentrate their energies where they can add the most value with their expertise and skills, such as preparing a legal strategy for a case.

In small law firms, the use of AI can also be implemented quickly. The need to save time acts as a spur for such firms. They are able to make decisions and establish a plan for the use of AI in a matter of days.

Both self-employed lawyers and small firms would be freer to meet with clients. They would be able to better serve their needs, but also spend more time meeting with individuals or firms who want to engage their services. However, one of the big advantages will be the ability to offer cheaper rates and be more competitive in the market, according to ThomsonReuters.

However, smaller firms have more opportunities to explore the technology. They can split their team and appoint one or more people to investigate the possibilities of artificial intelligence in their day-to-day work.

The impact of AI on large law firms

For large firms with hundreds or thousands of employees, the picture is different. For them, using AI often means conducting a prior efficiency and risk analysis, as well as establishing a usage protocol. Some will probably prefer to work with a proprietary tool, a circumstance that delays the adoption of the technology.

Larger companies will take longer to apply AI to their day-to-day tasks, but doing so in a more organised way will limit their exposure to risk. It should be remembered that it is recommended that one person oversees the results delivered by artificial intelligences.

However, the biggest impact could be felt in price. It is possible that task automation will be used to drive down rates. If this happens, clients will put pressure on their law firms to lower prices.

Another consequence of the use of AI in the legal world is that large corporations, typically clients of large law firms, will be empowered to resolve certain matters in-house. Artificial intelligence will help with some heavy and time-consuming tasks that require a heavy investment of time and very specific knowledge.

ThomsonReuters notes that this will only affect firms that typically work with large companies, which tend to have their own legal teams. They will start to work with artificial intelligence, so they will know first-hand the value that the technology brings.


The automation of tasks that artificial intelligence will bring about in legal practice will make independent lawyers and small law firms more competitive. These types of players will manoeuvre more easily and more quickly when it comes to adopting new innovations, such as AI.

Larger, slower-moving law firms will take longer to adopt AI but will do so with lower risks. However, some of their clients, such as large corporations, may push for lower fees.

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