TORONTO, APRIL 18, 2023 – Thomson Reuters (TSX/NYSE: TRI), a global content and technology company, has released new research which highlights how growing trust among legal professionals will be key to the continued adoption of AI-powered technology.
The research gathered opinions from representatives at mid-size and large law firms in the U.S., U.K., and Canada where AI recognition is shown to be high. Overall, the research showed the legal profession is highly aware of generative AI and ChatGPT. A full 91% of survey respondents indicated they had heard of or read about generative AI or ChatGPT, including 93% of respondents from large law firms and 90% of respondents from midsize law firms. Those figures also varied slightly by geography: Canada (97%) registered the highest rate of generative AI/ChatGPT recognition, while the U.K. (86%) registered the lowest.
Beyond awareness, law firms also see potential opportunity in the new technology. The research showed that 82% of legal professionals believe that generative AI such as ChatGPT can be applied to legal work. Partners and managing partners at law firms generally felt more positive than other types of attorneys, with 59% sharing generative AI should be applied to legal work, compared with 52% of associates and 44% of other lawyers within firms.
With regards to firms’ non-legal work, almost three-fourths (72%) of respondents said they felt that generative AI or ChatGPT should be applied to non-legal work. Just 7% answered that they should not be applied to non-legal work, while 21% answered that they did not know.
“Our use of AI technology is designed to help legal professionals do their jobs more efficiently, enabling them to focus their time where it matters most. This data demonstrates high engagement with new technology – but a critical need for more understanding to enable legal professionals to first trust, and then harness the opportunity ahead.” said Kriti Sharma, Chief Product Officer for Legal Technology at Thomson Reuters. “We’re dedicated to helping our customers navigate the emergence of generative AI, as well as supporting the profession to harness the potential of large language models to improve access to justice.”
Law firms that are looking to adopt new technologies are aware of potential risks and are taking a cautious yet hands on approach as they explore potential use cases. As part of the research Thomson Reuters Institute conducted qualitative interviews to better understand the viewpoints. Each interview conducted mentioned the importance of applying guardrails to generative AI use, and all noted that they do not yet fully trust generative AI tools — and particularly the public-facing ChatGPT tool — with confidential data.
With a third of respondents (34%) still in the consideration phase for generative AI and ChatGPT, building trust to ensure awareness of its potential is essential. The survey highlights that as well as keeping up with the development of technology, the legal profession needs to focus on education. This will help professionals harness the opportunities to grow trust and build awareness of how AI technology can help automate tasks, deliver insights, and drive efficiencies when combined with trusted information and human insight.
Despite the research showing that 83% of those surveyed believe their firm does not use AI, or do not know if AI is used at their firm, the legal profession has benefited from artificial intelligence for many years. With the launch of ChatGPT in November 2022 we have seen a new layer of opportunity in the tools that have the potential to transform the way lawyers work.
Sharma added “The research highlights what professionals are thinking and feeling about the emergence of generative AI. We are clear on the opportunities; however, it suggests we are not clear on the safe application or benefits, yet. To be successful, the legal industry needs to be proactive, and lean into the responsibility to educate itself, agree sector-specific rules, lead consumer awareness and be proactive in expanding its code of ethics to include AI.”
The Thomson Reuters Institute conducted the research for this report by sending invitations to an online survey to midsize and large law firms, along with law firm members of the Thomson Reuters Influencer Coalition panel, located in the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada. There were 443 applicable survey respondents between March 21 and 31, 2023.
Of these respondents, 62% were from midsize law firms (between 30 and 179 attorneys); and the remaining 38% were from large law firms (more than 180 attorneys), with 17% of total respondents from firms with more than 500 attorneys. The majority of the respondents were from the U.S. (63%), with 23% of respondents from the U.K., and 14% from Canada.
The respondents’ job titles were roughly split between partners/managing partners (34%), associates (30%), and other lawyers (26%). The remaining 11% of respondents were split between paralegals, law librarians, C-suite/executive leadership, and IT/technology management.
Those respondents completing the survey were also asked selected open-ended questions concerning their opinions around why generative AI should or should not be used for legal work, as well as the potential risks of generative AI, and if they believed those risks existed. The Thomson Reuters Institute also conducted additional qualitative interviews to further flesh out generative AI beliefs in addition to the survey responses.
About Thomson Reuters
Thomson Reuters (NYSE / TSX: TRI) (“TR”) informs the way forward by bringing together the trusted content and technology that people and organizations need to make the right decisions. The company serves professionals across legal, tax, accounting, compliance, government, and media. Its products combine highly specialized software and insights to empower professionals with the data, intelligence, and solutions needed to make informed decisions, and to help institutions in their pursuit of justice, truth and transparency. Reuters, part of Thomson Reuters, is the world’s leading provider of trusted journalism and news. For more information, visit tr.com.