Want AI to Stick? Turn the Skeptics Into Believers

Despite all the chatter around artificial intelligence, true believers are scarce in the legal industry. As we all know, technology is great when it works, but when it doesn’t, it can wreak all kinds of havoc on our lives. It’s not surprising that lawyers who rely on time-tested approaches and tools in their practice are still reluctant to embrace new technologies dubbed as “AI.”  Many are simply not convinced that AI-based tools can actually enhance their work. 

The American Bar Association’s recently released Legal Technology Survey Report sheds light on some of their specific concerns. Of the 662 nationwide respondents to the survey, 51% said AI’s accuracy was their top concern when implementing and leveraging AI-based technologies in their law firm. Reliability (48%) and cost to implement the technology (46%) followed closely behind.

By nature, lawyers are risk-averse; they need to be appropriately convinced to change the way they practice, and that takes time, effort and money – three things legal technology companies don’t always have a lot of. Adding to the skepticism we are seeing in the market is the rampant, sometimes irresponsible, hype that tends to obscure what AI actually does. Brad Blickstein, publisher of the Legal AI Efficacy Report, who recently spoke on a panel with Suresh Pillai, senior corporate counsel at Astellas Pharma, recently quoted Pillai in the report as saying: “Everyone wants to get into AI, but no one knows what it can do.”

Some of the most successful legal tech companies have been created by former practicing attorneys who grew tired of the extensive levels of inefficiency all around them, from legal research and contract review to calendaring and docketing. Empathizing with lawyers by taking the time to understand their pain points is one way of making believers in AI. Demonstrating that you’ve been there – that you have a detailed understanding of their process and workflow challenges and the long nights involved in handling a high-stakes matter – shows potential users you know what’s at risk.

Unfortunately, the ABA report found that just 8% of lawyers who responded are currently using AI-based technology tools, and most of them are at firms with 100 or more lawyers. These numbers suggest that, on the whole, very few lawyers are sold on the value of AI.

So how can the legal tech industry help shift perceptions of the technology? Demonstrating the real value of AI through case studies and actual results is a key strategy for turning the skeptics into believers.

Those who believe in the promise of AI have seen the results with their own eyes. In particular, AI tools that are designed to handle a very specific task – and do so successfully – are apt to get more believers on board. For example, TE Connectivity achieved a 50% reduction in review time and a 67% reduction in cycle time, in a pilot with AI-assisted contract review tool BlackBoiler according to Jim Michalowicz, senior manager of TE Connectivity. What sets BlackBoiler’s AI apart is that they aren’t trying to boil the ocean; their product addresses a specific business problem that allows lawyers to focus on higher value work (and improved outcomes) for their clients.

Messages like BlackBoiler’s—ones that focus on very specific use cases for AI—have the potential to resonate in multiple channels. And these are the types of demonstrable results that generate interest in the marketplace; these are the stories that legal tech providers should be talking about.