On July 6th Wolters Kluwer and Above the Law released a survey Generative AI in the Law: Where Could This All Be Headed? The survey queried lawyers and other business professionals in the legal industry to assess the expected impact of Generative AI on the Legal Profession. It seems that every day there is a survey or a webinar offering to answer the big question – can AI replace lawyers and other allied legal business professionals? It is a kind of anticipatory l marketing – lets just plant a flag on “Planet AI.”

The long term impact of Generative AI may well be profound, but today there is no consensus on how soon or how dramatically it will impact the practice of law. The survey respondents suggests a pessimistic future for law librarians and knowledge professionals. I have heard it all before. For the past 20 years the end of law librarians was immanent and yet for those 20 years we have been at the forefront of introducing new technologies that eliminated some traditional work and made room for us to climb the value ladder…. analytics, insights, APIs….New roles in support of Generative AI testing are already obvious.

Librarians Invented Prompt Engineering One of the key challenges to using Generative AI is learning how to construct the right query to generate the best result. Well law libraries are already “prompt” experts. Their skills reach back to the early days of “dot command” platforms that practically required a programming language to extract research results. Prompt Engineering sounds a lot less demanding than the technologies we mastered in the past.

The Chief Query Officer In 2013, I predicted the rise of a role I called “The Chief Query Officer” writing that “In a Big Data world, advantage will be  gained by asking better questions….In a Big Data world, every firm will be striving to be one question ahead of the competition……..And it will need to be the right question!” Librarians have mastered the “art of the Query.”.. step aside…

Key Findings of The Wolters Kluwer ATL Survey:

  • 62 percent of respondents believe that effective use of generative AI
    will separate successful law firms from unsuccessful firms within the
    next five years.
  • More than 80 percent of all respondents agree that generative AI will
    create transformative efficiencies for research and routine tasks.
  • Respondents are less convinced that AI will transform high-level legal
    work: 31 percent agree that this will happen, while 50 percent disagree.
  • More than two-thirds of respondents believe that document review
    lawyers and librarians or others involved in knowledge management
    and research are at risk of obsolescence because of generative AI.
  • Practice areas that are most likely to be affected by generative
    AI, according to respondents, include corporate, trusts & estates,
    litigation, intellectual property, and tax.
  • Practice areas that are least likely to be affected by generative AI,
    according to respondents, include criminal / white collar law and
    environmental / energy law.

The full survey can be downloaded at this link.