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Legal Professionals Say They Aren’t Ready for Generative AI. They’re Embracing It Anyway.

New Report Shows a Profession in Transition

by Casey Sullivan

Seventy-two and 40. No two numbers represent the transformative moment the legal profession faces as the rapid evolution of generative AI technology promises to upend traditional knowledge work, with tools like ChatGPT that can create content so convincingly they have been able to pass the bar exam and the MPRE. 

Seventy-two: the percentage of legal professionals who say the industry is not ready for the impacts of generative AI. 

Forty: the percentage of legal professionals who say they are already using or planning to use such tools.

These two key numbers come from the new 2023 Ediscovery Innovation Report, created by Everlaw in conjunction with the International Legal Technologists Association and the Association of Certified E-Discovery Specialists and published today at ILTACON 2023. Based on a survey of 245 legal professionals, the report paints a picture of a profession on the cusp of major change.

This year’s Ediscovery Innovation Report confirms that the profession’s last major technological shift, the move to cloud-based technology, is firmly established. While it will take a few more years for some of the entire industry to still make the change, the trajectory is set

Generative AI is on an accelerated path to the same destination. If the move to the cloud took more over a decade, the willingness to experiment with generative AI tools seems far faster. 

The 72/40 split is clear. Much of the profession is moving to get on board with generative AI, before they get left behind.

But that doesn’t mean throwing caution to the wind. Lawyers are rightly concerned about generative AI’s reliability and the privacy of the data it has access to. To embrace such tools responsibly but proactively, legal professionals need to look for technology partners who are committed to addressing those concerns thoughtfully, who understand the unique concerns these tools raise in the litigation and investigations process, as well as the massive benefits they provide – and who take the same approach to responsible development that allowed other transformative technologies, like the cloud, to become industry standards. 

Download your copy of the report today, to see where the legal profession stands on some of the most pressing legal technology topics of the day, from cloud adoption to AI use — generative and not.

Key Findings From the 2023 Ediscovery Innovation Report

1. The Future of Ediscovery Is Solidly in the Cloud

The move to bring ediscovery into the cloud remains inevitable and inescapable. In 2023, when it comes to ediscovery software deployment, nearly half of all respondents (47.3%) report using cloud-based tools, either managed either in-house (23%) or via partners (24.2%). Further, the percentage of respondents who say cloud-based ediscovery is currently the standard approach has grown to 56%, a 17% year-over-year increase, nearly doubling over the past two years. An additional 39% said that cloud-based discovery software will become the norm within the next year (12%) or two years (27%). 

Legal Profession-s Ediscovery Technology - Ediscovery Innovation Report Fig 3
Ediscovery software deployment, from the 2023 Ediscovery Innovation Report

2. The Cloud Divide Reflects a Larger Technological Gap, From Ediscovery to Generative AI

Consistent with the findings from 2022’s Ediscovery Innovation Report, the divide in ediscovery software reflects a larger contrast in the legal profession, with respondents using cloud-based discovery software managed in-house more likely to leverage advanced functionality in their ediscovery tools and more likely to cite the positive potential of generative AI on their discovery process.

For example, users of cloud-based ediscovery software managed in-house were the most positive about the impact of generative AI on client value, with over half (52.94%) agreeing that it will help them deliver more to their clients. On the other hand, respondents who use on-premises software managed in-house have the highest level of strong disagreement (14.71%) with the notion that AI will increase client value.

When asked whether the legal profession was prepared for the impacts of generative AI, survey respondents answered with an overwhelming no. The main areas of concern were, unsurprisingly, accuracy, cited by 46% of respondents, with security and data sharing following well behind. 

However, a majority of respondents reported being comfortable using generative AI on discrete ediscovery tasks, including identifying patterns in data sets and summarizing documents.

Despite feeling unprepared for the impacts of generative AI, a majority of respondents were surprisingly optimistic in their outlook on a generative AI future. Over half of respondents either agreed or strongly agreed that generative AI’s impacts on the profession would be positive, allowing them to eliminate drudge work to prioritize higher-value tasks, making them more efficient, driving greater client value, and allowing them to take on more work. Fewer than one-third of respondents believed that generative AI would devalue legal work in the near or long term. 

Legal Profession-s Adoption of AI - Ediscovery Innovation Report Fig 23
40% of legal professionals say they are already using or planning to use generative AI in their legal work.

A significant number of respondents are moving quickly to become early adopters of generative AI, placing them at the forefront of the application of this new technology in the legal profession. While 60% of respondents had no plans to use generative AI at the moment, nearly one out of eight said that they were already employing generative AI tools, a significant proportion given the novelty of the technology. An additional 28% were currently planning to deploy generative AI tools, for a total of 40% of respondents already using or considering using generative AI tools.