General counsel call on law firms to share the benefits of new artificial intelligence technology

Law firms should do more to share the benefits of artificial intelligence technology with their clients, according to a new report revealing what GCs really think about AI.

The report, AI: The new wave of legal services, produced by Legal Week Intelligence and Bird & Bird, is based on 15 interviews with senior in-house lawyers, covering subjects including their current and potential use of technology, the opportunities and challenges presented by AI, and how it will shape their expectations of the law firms they instruct.

The report reveals that many GCs would like a more proactive stance from law firms in sharing the potential benefits of AI – through testing to implementation and cost savings.

KPMG general counsel Jeremy Barton argues that AI should be a catalyst for law firms and GCs to work more closely together: “What is going to change is the nature of collaboration with law firms. We pay law firms too much for doing basic research.

Technology is a big add you can bring to the table if your general counsel and their team are interested

“You could easily envisage getting to a stage where the only law firms you really want to deal with, as in-house counsel or general counsel, are those who share a platform with you, or are prepared to use your platform so that your collaboration is supported by technology that is common between you and the law firm.”

Claire Debney, director of legal strategy at FTSE 100 pharma company Shire, agrees. “Law firms should be more collaborative in their use of technology,” she says. “When they look at the client relationship, you have your relationship partner and your regular review. Technology is a big add you can bring to the table if your general counsel and their team are interested. Not everyone will be, but how do we know if we are going to be interested, when we’re not given the chance to know that it exists?”

Other heads of legal interviewed for the report include Royal Mail group GC Maaike de Bie, BT GC Chris Fowler, National Grid GC and global head of operations Mohammed Zain Ajaz, and Vodafone Global Enterprise legal director Kerry Phillip (pictured), who says that many law firms now using AI have begun to offer such services to their clients.

As Mick Sheehy, general counsel of finance, technology, innovation and strategy at Australian telecoms giant Telstra, says: “There’s a great opportunity for us to collaborate as we train machines to read basic legal agreements. That makes a lot of economic sense rather than an individual legal department doing this journey by themselves.”

Other subjects covered include the challenge of justifying investment in new IT, the use of self-service tools such as ’lawbots’, and the companies at the forefront of tech innovation.