AI

Survey Finds In-House Counsel “Aware but Wary” of AI

New survey reveals AI perceptions, utilization in corporate legal departments

As the popularity and proliferation of generative artificial intelligence (AI) continues to grow, a new report from law firm Lowenstein Sandler and the Association of Corporate Counsel – New Jersey shows that the legal community remains cautious about its integration into the internal operations of corporate law departments.

The report, “Aware But Wary: In-House Counsel On The Power Of Generative Artificial Intelligence,” surveyed in-house counsel at companies across sectors on their perceptions, awareness, and utilization of generative AI tools. The results illustrate the range of current attitudes toward AI across various in-house counsel roles and gauge how it is being used in legal and business operations now and in the future.

“As improved data around the use of generative AI is released, firms and businesses will be more inclined to leverage these programs for their operations in the coming years,” said Mary J. Hildebrand, CIPP/US/E, founder and Chair of the Privacy & Cybersecurity practice at Lowenstein Sandler. “With prudent policies and thorough training on the use of the evolving tools, it could prove to be the deciding factor for entities able to successfully engage with AI and revolutionize decision-making processes.”

While the survey’s key findings found that most in-house counsel have not yet integrated AI into their department, many (62 percent) do see the potential for increased productivity with its use. However, the survey revealed some potential hurdles toward reaching that potential, with 43 percent of respondents expressing little to no confidence in their understanding of the technology, only 25 percent saying they’ve received training, and half of the respondents saying they had no plans for formal training or education.

“AI is here to stay, but it is important for attorneys to understand its current limitations and be aware of potential risks, so they don’t outweigh rewards. Professionals who understand its benefits and can manage its applications efficiently will be the ones to reap its benefits and create a road map for navigating pitfalls,” said Bert Kaminski, Director, Legal – Google Cloud.

Additional survey findings include:

  • A noteworthy awareness of AI capabilities: 78 percent of respondents reported a moderate to high awareness of generative AI tools. Only 12 percent stated they have limited or no awareness.
  • Lack of AI usage among in-house counsel: 64 percent of respondents said they have yet to use AI for legal tasks.
  • Awareness around AI usage among companies: 46 percent of respondents said they were unaware of any instances where the technology was used in their legal department. Those who were aware noted at least some use in marketing, R&D, IT, sales, and operations departments, but were unaware of any generative AI usage in other departments within their companies.
  • Questions by department: Many respondents reported that they have started fielding questions about the use of AI, with IT/Security (16 percent), R&D (16 percent), and executives/board members (13 percent) as the most frequent sources for queries. The questions most frequently involved legal risks (67 percent), ethical concerns (57 percent), restrictions on use (52 percent), and company policies (52 percent).
  • Confidence in AI knowledge: 57 percent of respondents said they were moderately, very, or extremely confident about their understanding of AI, and 43 percent expressed either no confidence or only slight confidence.
  • AI adaptation practices: Among respondents who have begun using AI technology, 33 percent reported using it for general research, 32 percent for document generation, and 11 percent for summarization tasks.
  • Increased productivity: 43 percent of respondents cited increased productivity as the most prevalent benefit when leveraging AI in legal workflow. Another 39 percent cited work speed, 23 percent cited content and idea generation, and 12 percent cited the streamlining of repetitive tasks.
  • Lack of policy creation: 21 percent of respondents said that their companies did not have any AI-related policies, while 15 percent stated that their employers were in the process of creating them. Only 8 percent said that they already have existing guidelines.

Conducted between July 11 through August 31, 2023, the report surveyed 165 in-house legal professionals in roles including general counsel (26 percent), VP – Legal (13 percent), senior corporate counsel (12 percent), and associate counsel (15 percent).  Those who provided responses work at companies in a wide range of industries, including finance and insurance (18 percent); professional, scientific, and technical services (15 percent); manufacturing (11 percent); and healthcare and social assistance (13 percent). 42 percent of respondents came from organizations with more than 1,000 employees, while another 20 percent came from companies with 201-500 employees, and 14 percent from companies with 501-1,000 employees.

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