If artificial intelligence can detect red flags for cancer on brain scans and manage air traffic, can it help in-house legal teams manage contract reviews and redact privileged information from a data set?
“Yes, probably” is a reasonable answer. In fact, there are already battle-tested, AI-powered solutions for those use cases (and many more) in legal departments. So if you’re a general counsel (GC) looking to minimize the perception that your department is a cost center, solidify a path forward in your career, and simply save yourself and your team some time—well, the question of AI should be less “if” and more “how soon can I get started?”
Still, running headlong into a minefield of technology you don’t understand will serve no one. Laying a foundation of learning—balancing your role as a legal professional with the need to keep pace in an evolving corporate landscape—is the key to finding success in this brave new world. And it’s essential to get started down this path today, because your competitors are already there.
Feeling Empowered to Start Small
The first step to getting familiar with AI is simply to know what’s out there. Most in-house AI advocates suggest starting small: rather than looking at how you can transform your entire team with the help of AI, pick some straightforward challenges that present an opportunity to give AI a first try.
Whether it’s contract analysis, privilege review, or even just drafting notes and emails as part of your day-to-day work, start looking for a purpose-built tool that can help you get your foot in the door with AI and become more comfortable with its capabilities, limitations, and results.
As for how soon? There’s no better time than now, when AI—particularly generative AI —is evolving rapidly and interest (and, therefore, stakeholder buy-in) is high. If you aren’t sure how to start searching for and vetting reputable, responsibly built solutions, consider (without overcommitting their resources or trust to unproven tools) consulting a legal service provider. Doing so on a project-by-project basis can make starting small and gathering proof of ROI much easier.
Put on Your Technologist Hat
It’s well known that the role of general counsel is actually many roles woven into one; from business partners and contract negotiators to financial stakeholders and legal counsel, GCs wear many hats. And as the pressure to do more with less increases on GCs across industries, this challenge certainly isn’t getting any smaller.
Technology, though, is doing its darndest to keep up. The sheer number of tools out there for today’s in-house counsel is mind-boggling. Help is out there in the journey to meet and exceed the growing expectations of legal departments. You just have to look for it.
If you don’t already consider yourself a technologist, don’t worry: it isn’t necessary to start coding software or divining machine learning algorithms on your own. All you need is a genuine interest in improving your team’s deliverables and saving your company’s time and money—and the willingness to lean on the expertise of others to achieve those goals.
Lean into your curiosity by shifting some of the focus you put into your daily learning habits. Do you like to open a favorite news site in the mornings with your first cup of coffee? Bookmark some technology-focused publications or blogs to insert some AI education into your routine. Do you admire your company’s IT team for their hands-on expertise with both familiar and brand-new technology? Invite them to a team meeting to educate you and your colleagues on a timely topic or headline. You’ll learn a ton simply by listening to someone who is excited about the subject and willing to chat with you about it.
You don’t have to be the expert, but you must engage with this topic before it outpaces you. Embracing the technologist element of your role will ensure the longevity of your career.
Don’t Hold Back
As you go about your learning journey with AI and its many applications, you’re going to have questions—a lot of questions. And that’s good! That curiosity will help the information stick, and secure your place at the cutting edge of life as a modern GC.
The next key is finding a place to ask those questions, get trustworthy answers, and inform your path forward. Don’t be afraid to lean on your network for this; whether it’s mentors, industry peers, or thought leaders informing your feed, don’t be afraid to establish connections and reach out for discussion.
Ready to start learning? Download the “General Counsel’s Guide to AI” from Relativity to get started and join the race toward greater efficiency and better work product. It’s pretty incredible what human and artificial intelligence can achieve together.