Where Next for Legal Ops in the GenAI Era?

Will generative AI become a catalyst for significant change among inhouse lawyers? And if so, what part will legal operations play in this? Moreover, what follow-on impact will this have on law firms and ALSPs?

First, some context. The number of inhouse lawyers, as well as those in legal-related domains such as compliance, has been steadily growing at corporations. Likewise, as headcount and legal spend increases – while also experiencing greater scrutiny, so too the greater need for legal operations or legal ops.

CLOC defines legal ops as something that ‘enable[s] legal departments to serve their clients more effectively by applying business and technical practices to the delivery of legal services’. In short, it brings increased efficiency to the game.

The second part of the definition states: ‘Legal ops provides the strategic planning, financial management, project management, and technology expertise that enables legal professionals to focus on providing legal advice.’ I.e. that legal ops aims to relieve inhouse lawyers of their process work burden. Or simply put, it should help remove the donkey work and allow the lawyers to do the brain work.

Now we come to generative AI. In many ways, what this technology does is address use cases that are already catered for by existing legal tech tools – but gets to the result in different and perhaps better ways.

For example, law firms have long held templates, now an LLM can produce a model document for you. Legal tech tools using NLP have performed document review, highlighted text that you may want to replace with playbook text, and helped also with legal research needs. LLM tech also does this – with many stating that with the right system prompts and verification layers in place, such generative AI-backed legal tech tools can be more powerful than what came before. Others argue that is not always the case and that ‘the last mile problem’ such as an LLM providing results that may need to be checked removes some of the value.

We are still working through the above, but it’s clear that not all LLM-driven or LLM-connected legal tech tools – whether ‘homemade’, often in conjunction with the Microsoft suite, or bought off the shelf from a vendor, are equal.

But, if we put the gripes to one side and accept that in time many of the challenges will be ironed out (and it’s worth highlighting that there are several LLM-based legal tech tools out there already that appear to be performing extremely well….), what may be some of the key questions legal ops experts need to focus on? Here’s some thoughts:

  • How does the legal ops team choose which way to go? Build their own LLM-linked system or go with legal tech vendors? But, before they even get to this, they’ll need to ask: what are they actually trying to solve for? What benefits will a new approach likely give compared to what they have already? For example, a growing number of inhouse teams have CLM systems, some of which have a wide range of tools built in. Do you re-select? Do you jump entirely out of this into something else you’ve built? Do you wait until the CLM provider develops the LLM-driven capability you want? But, it’s worth stressing again: all of this jumping around on tech decisions is meaningless unless you know what it is you are trying to get to and what advantages or improvements you hope to gain.
  • The above suggests that legal ops teams are going to have to do some experimenting and do a full analysis of what needs to change, how it changes with an LLM approach, and if there will be a notable improvement in reaching the desired goals. Otherwise you’re just implementing new tech for the sake of it.
  • How will any LLM tools you buy or build fit with those generative AI tools the company you are part of already has, or plans to have? Here we can see perhaps the significance of Microsoft going heavily into LLM provision – plus most legal teams and corporates will be working in this environment already. In which case, how does everything fit together?
  • Then of course we have the now overly repeated, but still important, issues of data control and IP. How does that get arranged, not just for legal, but with the rest of the company?
  • How does this impact the use for law firms and ALSPs? What areas of work that get sent out are likely to be impacted? Clearly it’s going to be the most repetitive legal labour that still is sent out rather than handled internally. So, complex transactional work? Nope. Litigation strategy? Nope. But, if a company, for example, is sending out day-to-day contracting needs, what then? Do you demand the ALSP, whether independent or part of a law firm, uses LLM technology to improve efficiency and reduce costs?
  • Fixed fees – as efficiency grows (or at least we hope it will) in the delivery of legal services how do the buyers relate to pricing? Do the clients now seize the opportunity to ask for fixed fees (because fixed fees, plus tech, optimise efficiency, while hourly billing tends to undermine tech’s use for core billable tasks even if those tasks are of low value)? What areas of work do they focus on first? What kind of conversations do they have with firms and ALSPs? What will be their yardstick to measure improvements? What kind of deals can be made with the sellers of legal services in what is becoming a more efficient legal services world?

And there is a lot more to explore.

But, what do practising legal ops experts and inhouse lawyers think? What are those at the coalface of change learning?

You can find out by attending Legal Innovators UK, in London on November 8 and 9, where we’ll be exploring just such issues – and much more!

One panel during Legal Innovators UK is: ‘Legal Ops: Its Greatest Test or Greatest Opportunity?’ and will feature some tremendous speakers, including:

  • Alena Kapachova, Legal Ops and Legal Tech / Contracting Lawyer, AkzoNobel
  • Erica Duffy, Senior Director, Global Legal and Corporate Affairs Enablement and Content Management, Salesforce
  • Wayne Spillett, Head of Legal – Intellectual Property, Product and Services, Vodafone
  • Alexa Carnero Durand, Senior Advisor, Legal Counsel – Global Marketing & Communications, Dell Technologies
  • Robert Dilworth, Managing Director & Associate General Counsel, Bank of America

But, that’s just the start. We will be looking at this and much more at Legal Innovators UK – with Day One focused on Law Firms and ALSPs, and Day Two on Inhouse and Legal Ops.

I am really looking forward to chairing the London event again and seeing everyone, as well as engaging with the key topics of the day. If you’d like to come along you can find tickets here.

If you’d like to be a speaker / sponsor at Legal Innovators UK this November, then please contact:

Timo: timo@cosmonauts.biz (all major enquiries) 

Craig: craig@cosmonauts.biz (industry sponsors) 

Suditi: suditi@cosmonauts.biz (law firms/inhouse)

Looking forward to seeing you there!

Richard Tromans, Artificial Lawyer Founder and Conference Chair.