Future-proofing Legal: 4 Ways AI Drives the Business of Law Forward

The potential for legal departments to positively impact every aspect of business, from revenue growth to operational efficiency to corporate innovation, has been uncovered – and artificial intelligence (AI) and automation are proving to be Legal’s catalysts for evolution.

“Siri, remind me to make that call at 3 pm.”

“Alexa, play ‘Bohemian Rhapsody.’”

From the fingerprint and facial recognition that unlocks your phone to the live chat inquiring when your latest online order or rideshare will arrive, automation and artificial intelligence (AI) have become sidekicks in the beautiful chaos of modern life – even in legal operations.

Corporate legal departments have, historically, been a little late to the digital transformation party. However, chapter two of the Enterprise Legal Reputation (ELR) Report, a multinational study spotlighting how legal professionals perceive their interactions with internal clients, reveals that half of legal respondents voice an urgent need for modernization, deeming their technology both insufficient (47%) and outdated (46%). This technology lag is particularly prevalent in France, where nearly three in five (58%) desire an upgrade.

Some global legal departments do have a running head start integrating AI to manage contracts (51%), matter management initiatives (51%), and eBilling and spend (48%). But what is holding back the rest of Legal from evolving into a more service-minded, modernized, “work smarter, not harder” function?

According to Legal respondents, the department admittedly can be averse to change (44%). One in four respondents (25%) says they simply do not have time to learn new technology. Other obstacles include a lack of budget (39%) and the disenfranchising belief among two in three legal practitioners (67%) who feel executives are unsupportive in endorsing modernization.

But for legal departments continually expected to do more with less, modern tech can define a new era of operational and cost efficiency, especially in a macroeconomic market featuring inflationary risk, rising interest rates, and geopolitical conflict. Bringing automation to legal operations minimizes risk while boosting productivity, streamlining workflows, and freeing up time for legal teams to focus on business-critical tasks of higher value, complexity, and billability.

Legal can leverage AI and automation to help drive efficiency and material growth by:

1. Improving invoice accuracy.One of the most effective ways to manage outside counsel is to develop and maintain billing guidelines. While only 48% of ELR respondents currently utilize eBilling, an AI-powered system can simplify the billing of productive invoiceable hours and improve accuracy, flagging common errors and enforcing guidelines that might otherwise disrupt budgets – and contributing to up to 10% savings in outside counsel spend.

2. Accelerating contract workflows. About half of legal departments (54%) use automation in their contract lifecycle management (CLM), but to wildly varying degrees: 79% in Germany do, while only 31% in the United Kingdom can say the same. (The U.S. and France fall in-between, with 55% and 49%, respectively.) But that means that many legal professionals are practically being buried beneath an avalanche of contracts, on which 58% spend four to five hours or more daily. Still, it doesn’t have to be this way: AI solutions can quickly sift through thousands of contracts, uncovering risks, replacing language, and redlining them in less than two minutes – and accelerating approval by up to 70%.

3. Creating documents faster. Document drafting and analysis are a major part of any legal process. Supervised machine learning (ML), a subfield of AI that mimics controlled intelligent human decision-making, allows document automation to populate form fields of AI-assisted templates to expeditiously produce contracts, agreements, and invoices. This not only saves time dramatically – often reducing legal document drafting to less than five minutes! – but also increases precision, as AI tools are more likely to pick up questionable details humans might have missed while repeatedly reading so many pages.

4. Harnessing the power of data. Sifting through piles of data can take weeks, even months. But AI-driven tools – which can review up to 500 data points organized by relevant criteria, then extract high-quality data in just seconds, even compiling and synthesizing data in storytelling mode – can identify precedents, confirm completeness of data, and keep track of ever-changing regulations while bringing vital clarity, slashing time and spend, and finding leakages that could otherwise affect business opportunities and materiality.

The future of AI  in Legal

This is real life, of course, not a sci-fi movie. Introducing and incorporating AI into legal operations will not unleash a wave of robot lawyers. What it will do is make legal ops’ work a little easier by giving lawyers and legal professionals back their time to map key investments, foster deeper partnerships, drive forward-thinking innovation, and influence meaningful business outcomes, from topline revenue generation to bottom-line cost and operational efficiency.

The future for Legal is more than just unlocking the latest in technology. But evolving to embrace that tech will provide the modern digitalization, optimized workflows, and requisite collaboration to prove Legal’s image moment of impact is here – to transform the department’s brand image, grow the enterprise materially, and elevate the future business of law.

Read the ELR Report to learn more about how legal professionals view their relationships with internal clients in comparison to the image enterprise employees have of their legal departments.

*The ELR Report is a third-party, multinational study of 4,000 enterprise employees and 500 corporate legal professionals across the United States, United Kingdom, France, and Germany intended to showcase relationship dynamics and perceived image between corporate legal teams and enterprise organizations.