SRA report examines use of AI in law firms

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) have shared a report outlining both the opportunities and risks associated with and presented by the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI).

This report forms part of the SRA’s Risk Outlook series and the latest report specifically focuses on how AI is impacting the legal services sector.

The report, whilst researching and then condensing looks at the impact AI has on the legal sector. It also outlines both current and potential future developments. This is particularly important as it provides firms (but also others in the legal and legal services sector) with things they may need to think about in each area to help them assess if and how they might be affected.

Some of the opportunities which are highlighted in the report that firms could consider implementing or utilising include:

  • using AI to complete administrative tasks more efficiently, so as to free up staff capacity for more complex tasks.
  • Automation can reduce costs – it could be used, for instance, to capture client information before a first consultation.

Firms or legal service providers may already have access to software, which can help them be more efficient and/or develop new ways of working.

Three of the risks that the report shares the profession should consider (along with helpful definitions and explanations) are:

  • Accuracy and bias problems – these can cause AI to produce incorrect and possibly harmful results, either through hallucinations or amplification of existing bias in the data. These effects can have the added problem that people often put more trust in computers than in humans.
  • Client confidentiality – maintaining client confidentiality when using AI, not just protecting against exposure to third parties but also making sure sensitive information is secure both in their firm and when dealing with the system provider.
  • Accountability – solicitors need to remember that they are still accountable to clients for the services provided, whether or not external AI is used.

Paul Philip, SRA Chief Executive, said:

“It is difficult to predict how quickly AI will change the legal sector, but increasingly we won’t be able to ignore its impacts.

So far it has mainly been larger firms using AI. However, with such technology becoming increasingly accessible, all firms can take advantage of its potential. There are opportunities to work more efficiently and effectively. This could ultimately help the public access legal services in different and more affordable ways.

Yet there are risks. Firms need to make sure they understand and mitigate against them – just as a solicitor should always appropriately supervise a more junior employee, they should be overseeing the use of AI. They must make sure AI is helping them deliver legal services to the high standards their clients expect.

Our Risk Outlook summarises key things firms should be considering before using AI.”

This isn’t the first time the SRA has explored AI use in law firms. It was covered in the SRA’s Risk Outlook paper of June 2022 on innovation in a competitive landscape. In 2021, there was also a report on innovation in legal services which also discussed some of the key considerations around the use of AI.

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