Where are things headed with AI in the coming year? What trends should legal IT professionals be aware of if they hope to obtain the best results with this technology? From whether it’s wise to continue dabbling with in-house AI experiments, to determining if “move fast and break things” is the best approach for something as complex as artificial intelligence, there’s much for legal IT professionals to pay attention to and be aware of in this ever-evolving environment.
Leaving Yesterday’s Benchmarks in the Dust
The first thing to be aware of is that the technology is advancing very quickly – and even as it becomes more powerful, it increasingly becomes more accessible to end users.
It was clear from the moment it arrived on the scene that generative AI’s proficiency with natural language was a gamechanger, opening up this technology to legal professionals in a way that simply wasn’t possible in the past.
Additionally, as time goes on, generative AI is able to work with larger and larger blocks of text. The days when the generative AI models could only handle 1000 words are in the rearview mirror; they can now handle 200,000 words.
Beyond just increasing their ability to ingest and work with novel-length blocks of text, the underlying models are generating ‘better’, more accurate answers. There’s a noticeable difference between the answers provided by a tool utilizing the GPT 4 model versus what the GPT 3.5 model would serve up. GPT 5, which is in development and pegged for release in the coming year, will only further sharpen the answers that generative AI can produce.
Time to End the Tinkering
The lowered barrier to entry around AI promoted in-house experimentation in law firms, with many practitioners eager to get their hands dirty. In the coming year, expect these homegrown development efforts to be put aside in favor of commercial off-the-shelf products.
Expense is one of the main reasons. While AI might be easier than ever to get started with, that doesn’t make it “cheap.” Developing and maintaining software solutions is expensive. Any law firm that tries to shoulder that cost themselves is going to have a huge burden as compared to commercial vendors who can spread that cost across an array of paying customers.
The net result is that most fiscally sound move for firms who want to embrace AI will be to tap existing vendors. As these vendors increasingly start folding elements of AI into their existing product offerings, this will be increasingly easy to do.
An Explosion of Vendors Means Some are Marked for Extinction
While this generative AI explosion is giving birth to a multitude of new legal tech startups, not all are built to last – and some will go extinct. In that respect, we’re experiencing something akin to the “Cambrian explosion” of prehistoric times, updated for AI era.
How do law firms ensure they’re picking a vendor who will successfully go the distance?
The best bet here is to look for vendors with an in-depth understanding of daily legal workflows combined with an understanding of which areas would actually benefit from AI as a way to streamline, accelerate, or otherwise enhance those workflows. After all, some workflows just need some Excel rules or some other “low tech” solution – while others scream out for the efficiency that AI can bring. Established vendors with domain expertise will understand these nuances.
Move Fast and Break Things?
An old adage in Silicon Valley famously advises companies to “move fast and break things.” There was a little bit of that mindset over the past year, as firms jumped into generative AI because it was the technology of the moment, and no one wanted to seem like they were behind the curve for such a groundbreaking new technology.
The year ahead will be a different story. Firms will slow down and take the time to identify the specific business problems that they’d like to solve. Part of that effort means figuring out when and where it’s smartest for AI to play a role, and where other technology will be sufficient.
All in all, this slower, more deliberate approach is a good thing. Hype in and of itself will no longer be enough of a reason for firms to invest in AI – instead, they will look for ways to get an actual ROI from the technology.
From Trends to Triumph
The dynamic AI landscape and the rapid evolution of this field underscores how quickly one year’s fashionable approach can be next year’s folly. To effectively harness the potential of this transformative technology, law firms need to stay informed about which way the winds are blowing with AI. By doing so, they can intelligently engage with the technology and capitalize on the opportunities that lie ahead – ensuring that they’re not just following trends, but positioned to emerge triumphant.
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