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Jun 29, 2021

To AI or Not to AI: The Great Debate on Legal AI Tools

From invoicing to contract review, you’ve probably heard how much legal AI tools can help you with routine, time-consuming tasks.

Is legal AI always the right answer, though? On June 9th, Onit hosted a webinar with Consilio and Buying Legal Council to answer precisely that question. Titled “To AI or Not to AI? The Big Debate Part II,” the webinar presented this challenge to two different teams:

There is no budget for additional headcount this year, even though your legal department is faced with the daunting task of repapering a massive number of contracts due to LIBOR, data privacy and other regulatory changes. Not to mention, you still have mounds of legal invoices to review. At the same time, strategic and risk management demands are higher than ever. What should be done? The GC has asked you to present a solution.

Team one, led by Onit, argued that AI tools for lawyers were the answer. Team two, led by Consilio, focused on outsourcing the work to an alternative legal service provider (ALSP).

Team Legal AI Tools

Team one’s main objective was to leverage AI to accomplish goals and improve operations. They argued that implementing legal AI tools internally would allow them to maintain control over their technology and use it to its greatest advantage.

The job of a general counsel at a multi-billion dollar global company is to increase the quality, consistency and velocity of every matter they touch while providing the team with resources that drive efficiencies throughout the enterprise. The question is which investments – whether humans or AI – will ultimately yield the returns you need down the road.

Team one aimed for standardization via legal AI tools to provide knowledge and data that would allow the organization to operate effectively, efficiently and consistently. They also dispelled lingering myths that legal AI tools are complicated to configure and implement. With Precedent, Onit’s AI platform, team one could configure their AI solutions within 15 minutes with no specific technical knowledge or training.

Team one noted, however, that the human/AI choice doesn’t have to be binary. Humans will always be a critical part of practicing law. But even superhuman employees need some help – specifically, they need legal AI. When you hire the best and the brightest and then allow them to use legal AI tools, you optimize your opportunities for success and retain your top talent. Institutional knowledge plus the processing power of AI is the winning combination.

Team ALSP

Team two presented a very different argument – that AI tools for lawyers are not always the answer because you’ll always need people. While legal AI tools have seen great advances, it’s not a sufficient replacement for humans. They also argued that it costs too much to train, takes too long to implement and demands too many resources for training.

Therefore, Team two advocated for outsourcing to ALSPs, rather than implementing legal AI in-house. ALSPs, they argued, save significant costs while offering faster start-up times, higher quality and more transparency.

In Team two’s experience, standing up a technology solution at a global company takes at least six months from the negotiation stage through implementation. If you’re lucky, you have your complete AI solution up and running in a year, which isn’t helpful for addressing your current, pressing needs. While implementing AI might certainly have long-term benefits, that wasn’t the challenge at hand. They believed going the AI route would delay ROI and sidetrack employees from their high-value work to focus on training the AI.

ALSPs, on the other hand, they argued, offer flexibility. An ALSP can serve as either a stop-gap or a more permanent part of a long-term, flexible model. You get instant access to top talent and expertise without investing in hiring or stretching your resources. Going the ALSP route still gives you access to legal AI tools – you just don’t have to train it yourself or invest in it. Those responsibilities fall to the ALSP.

Who Won The Great Debate Over Legal AI Tools?

Both teams presented worthy arguments pro and con legal AI tools for lawyers, but there can be only one winner. Listen to the debate to hear both sides’ full arguments and see which group the audience voted to win.

Many thanks to Consilio, an Elite partner in the Onit Strategic Alliances Program, and Buying Legal Council for participating in our second great debate!

This is the second debate event Onit has held. Explore our first debate, in which three teams argued different approaches to reduce outside counsel expenses. See the on-demand recording or read more about it.

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