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Law Practice Magazine

The Big Ideas Issue

Quotable Quotes on the Impact of AI on the Legal Profession

Daniel E Pinnington and Reid F Trautz


  • Simply adopting AI will not transform your firm; it must be integrated into your firm.
  • Consider how you can use AI to future proof your practice.
Quotable Quotes on the Impact of AI on the Legal Profession

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The cacophony of thoughts and opinions being expressed about the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on the legal profession makes it difficult predict the change it will ultimately bring to legal services. This is often the case with new technologies, and often more so with innovations that truly have the potential to bring about transformational change. And while there are differing thoughts on where AI will take us, most everyone agrees it will bring substantial changes to your practice and firm.

In this column we have assembled some quotable quotes, to try and paint a clearer picture of where things will land. You will recognize some of them, and others will be new to you, but hopefully you find clarity and inspiration for your journey into the world of generative AI.

"The future is already here––it's just not evenly distributed."
William Gibson, science fiction author and essayist

Perhaps this well-known William Gibson quote gives some comfort to those that haven’t felt or seen the impact of AI yet, but at the same time it makes the essential point that AI is here and coming your way. ChatGPT made generative AI accessible and real to the masses. From the informal polls we do at our presentations, it is clear many lawyers have played with ChatGPT or other AI tools, but relatively few are actively using these tools in their practices.

If you have a mature practice with an established clientele at a smaller firm in a smaller community, it may take a while for you to see major impacts from AI. Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security, AI likely has already crossed your threshold. Microsoft has incorporated it as Copilot in Microsoft 365. At ABA TECHSHOW earlier this year both of us were struck at how many vendors were marketing new or soon to be released AI features, products, and services. All the mainstream practice management software vendors had or were about to launch AI-based functionality in their programs.

The AI train is here and leaving the station; you should be taking steps to understand how you can use AI in your practice.

But it won’t be the end of the world as you know it.

"Lawyers working with AI will replace lawyers who don’t work with AI."
Erik Brynjolfsson, director, Stanford Digital Economy Lab

The fear that AI will replace all lawyers is misplaced. AI cannot do all the functions of a lawyer. Consumers rely on lawyers to provide their knowledge, apply their experience, use their judgment to make informed decisions and communicate throughout that problem-solving process. At present, AI can augment our knowledge and experience, but it cannot provide sound judgment nor communicate to a level expected by humans. However, because AI can deliver knowledge and expand beyond our personal experience much faster than without, consumers will come to expect that their lawyers have augmented their own knowledge and experience with that available via large language models (LLMs). Further, because AI can provide this knowledge and experience in a fraction of the time humans can do it, we will be able to deliver these services using fewer hours. That is where most lawyers now balk. The reality is that the economic force of the billable hour has never met a technological force as powerful as AI. Lawyers will need to be prepared to modify their present pricing models to address this new reality, yet there is no reason why AI-augmented lawyers cannot be even more profitable than today.

"Innovation is not just about creating new things, it's also about unlocking the potential of existing inventions to create new opportunities."
Sangeet Paul Choudary, technology advisor and author

For some perspective from a century ago, remember that the invention of refrigeration technology did not make appliance companies rich and powerful; it made food companies such as Coca-Cola, Oscar Mayer, and even McDonalds rich and powerful. We know the name of Ray Kroc, but not the name Carl von Linde—inventor of the refrigerator. 

More recently, internet pioneer America Online brought the internet to millions of people before collapsing, but made Google, Facebook and Amazon among the most valuable companies in the world. Similarly, while generative AI companies are grabbing all the headlines, we predict that they too will not be the ultimate winners; but that companies—including law firms—that harness this technology will become the leaders in their marketspace.

That is the opportunity we have today as legal service providers. We can channel the power of generative AI into our present systems and processes to create more robust law firms that can deliver better legal services to more people who need legal services.

"A correct answer to a prompt about a particular point of law or case is an achievement in statistics, not one of legal reasoning or diligent fact checking."
Colin Lachance, legal innovator

Regular readers of Law Practice will recognize this quote as it comes from a Future Proofing column that appeared a few months ago.

We have included this quote as it helps lawyers understand why generative AI tools can give wrong answers (hallucinations). It is solely statistical predictions that determine the pattern or order of the words in any answer from an LLM. LLMs have absolutely no human-like cognitive understanding of the words or concepts in a prompt they receive or the answer they create. If the LLM was trained on a very large set of data with accurate information, the answer it will give will look reasonable and accurate most of the time because it is based on the statistically most common word pattern. But the combination of words could sound reasonable but be factually wrong, especially if the LLM added some randomness in its answer, something most LLMs are programmed to do so there is some variety in the answers they give.

Hallucinations will be reduced as generative AI modeling improves, as LLMs use datasets with better and more customized data, with more contextual and specific prompts and with some old-fashioned human oversight and verification. Generative AI can become more reliable, but currently you should understand its limitations. Trust, but verify.

"AI can streamline routine tasks in pro bono cases, making legal services more accessible. Chatbots, for instance, can provide basic legal information to those who otherwise couldn’t afford it."
Dennis Kennedy, director of the Michigan State University Center for Law, Technology & Innovation

Our good friend Dennis Kennedy makes an important point that should get more attention. Generative AI has huge potential to help create tools that could provide basic legal information and advice to underserved populations that currently have limited access to justice.

"The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency."
Bill Gates, philanthropist and founder of Microsoft

As with most technologies, simply adopting AI will not transform your firm. It must be integrated into your firm. So, as you are reviewing and deciding how to employ generative AI, now is the time to review your systems and processes to make sure inefficiencies won’t be magnified. The systemic review and decisions about which AI tools to adopt go hand in hand.

So, AI isn’t perfect, and it won’t replace you or your associates in the next month or two, but it is coming your way, and you need to consider how you can use it to future proof your practice.

"Technology will never be more primitive than it is today."
Author unknown

Each day technology evolves and improves. It is a relentless march forward that may not always be noticeable to the user until it, well, becomes noticeable. Whether that is an improved phone app, faster Wi-Fi connectivity, predictive typing or better application integration, technology is getting better and more sophisticated each day. For the average law firm that does not mean they need to change their technology often, but it does mean lawyers must be paying attention to the changes and evolutions, so their firm continues to deliver client-centered, effective and efficient legal services desired by potential clients today and tomorrow. It’s a busy world, so let’s get to it.