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Artificial Intelligence

Generative AI for legal professionals: Its growing potential and top use cases

· 6 minute read

· 6 minute read

Early adopters are leading the charge, but a broader appeal is visible

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The first adopters

What are legal professionals using GenAI for?

What’s next?

Read more on the topic

Legal professionals are using generative artificial intelligence (GenAI) in greater numbers this year, although the industry still stands at a distance from any widescale embrace of progressive technology. 

Since ChatGPT’s general release in 2022, GenAI’s transformational potential has intrigued and unsettled professionals across a range of fields, from legal and audit firms to government offices and courthouses. GenAI-fueled technology offers the promise of a quantum leap in efficiencies in such areas as document processing, data analysis, client communications, and risk assessments. 

Yet to date, the GenAI revolution has been on a small scale. It’s more a story of individual adopters rather than department or firm-level rollouts. 

That may be changing. Thomson Reuters Institute’s 2024 Generative AI in Professional Services study documents GenAI being on the rise across market sectors. In corporate legal, for example, 41% of respondents said their firm was considering whether to use GenAI, compared with 30% in 2023.  

And corporate tax, accounting, and audit firms rose to 31% of respondents considering GenAI, compared with 21% last year. That said, many workplaces still hover at the wait-and-see stage, debating if and when GenAI should be implemented organization-wide. 

The survey was conducted with 1,128 respondents over January and February 2024, with participants screened to ensure a baseline of familiarity with GenAI. Respondents included those serving in corporate legal, tax, and risk departments, along with outside law firms, tax & accounting firms, and government legal departments and courts.  


2024 GenAI report

2024 Generative AI in Professional Services

For a full look at the topic, read the Thomson Reuters Institute’s latest report.

View the report


The first adopters 

Professionals who use GenAI typically started via their own initiative, looking to enhance their workflows. Asked whether they specifically used GenAI for their own work, nearly half (47%) of respondents said they currently use public-facing GenAI systems, or plan to within the next three years. Professionals in the tax (54%) and risk sectors (61%) are particularly likely to use such open-source GenAI systems as ChatGPT. 

Asked to what extent they use GenAI (or if they use it at all), respondents in legal corporate risk and fraud departments stood at the forefront. Roughly 30% of respondents from these departments use GenAI or soon plan to do so, while 29% said they have no plans to use the technology. 

On the other end of the spectrum, only 8% of court respondents say they use or plan to use GenAI technologies, while a substantial majority (60%) don’t plan to adopt GenAI at present. 

Curiosity about GenAI leads to consistent use: it’s not surprising that those who have integrated GenAI technology into their workflows will use it often. Among respondents who use GenAI, 42% do so at least daily, if not multiple times a day. An additional 31% use the technology at least weekly. 


While some use cases for GenAI carry a broad appeal, respondents naturally have multiple job-specific usage needs, as well. 


Contract drafting and tax return preparation 

Asked for their top five use cases for GenAI, survey respondents varied in their responses, with picks depending on the professional’s firm and specialty area. For example, 88% of corporate legal respondents listed contract drafting as being among their preferred GenAI use cases, while 69% of respondents from tax firms intend to use the technology in tax return preparation. 


Research, accounting or bookkeeping, and document review 

Law firm professionals, along with professionals in the government and court space, chose legal research as their top potential GenAI usage case. Government/court professionals are also intrigued by using GenAI for document review and summarizing, while tax firms and corporate tax firms both chose accounting/bookkeeping and tax research as top usage priorities.  


2024 Generative AI in Professional Services


What’s notable: respondents from all industries taking part in the survey chose “document review” as one of their top five use cases. It was the only use case that every respondent group had in common. 

It’s understandable why, as GenAI systems offer a myriad of ways to enhance document creation and processing. Start with brief, memo, and correspondence drafting. Here, GenAI technology enables users to pull from a deep vault of document templates, and so get the blueprint structure of a document in place with the click of a button, eliminating having to dig through files to find a template or start from scratch.  

GenAI also enables users to easily personalize their document, verify it for spelling and factual accuracy, and draw upon a set of resources (legal research databases, for example, that are routinely updated by industry experts) to further enhance the document. And GenAI-fueled technology offers a more intuitive method to review documents, whether it’s offering collaborative tools for multiple users, or automatically distributing the document to all involved parties with a precise summary of its contents. 


What’s next? 

The earlier GenAI adopters that a firm has, the more likely the firm is to implement a broader rollout. Among those surveyed who are using or who intend to use GenAI, 68% said their firm either already has wide-scale GenAI usage (12%), plans to have wide-scale usage in a year’s time (49%), or will do so in the next three years (17%). Less than 1% of these respondents expect the timeline to be longer than that. 

At present, many professionals still define GenAI as being open public-facing tools such as ChatGPT. Look for that situation to change, and soon. Industry-specific technology could spur broader adoption of progressive technologies once firms have access to more tailored GenAI offerings 

While only 12% of legal industry respondents use legal-specific GenAI today, an additional 43% said they plan to do so within the next three years. Compare that to the 27% of legal industry respondents using open-source GenAI tools today, and the additional 20% who plan to use open-source GenAI in the near future.  

If these trendlines continue, legal-specific GenAI tool usage could equal or surpass public-facing GenAI use among legal professionals by 2027. 


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