Reflections from Legalweek New York 2024: Generative AI is Reshaping the Landscape, Yet Lawyers Remain Indispensable

GeneralFeb 02, 2024

This week, legal professionals and tech enthusiasts from all corners of the globe gathered in the Big Apple. Here, we delved into the major challenges and opportunities that technology presents in legal practice, covering everything from e-discovery to cybersecurity, and not least, the competitive and regulatory pressures brewing across the industry. ALM's Legalweek conference (once known as Legaltech New York) has consistently drawn leaders and up-and-comers from the legal and tech sectors. This year, alongside the standard fare of case law updates, judicial insights, and tales from the trenches, the topic of artificial intelligence (AI) dominated discussions.

Legalweek has always been a beacon for pivotal tech trends that shape industry dialogues. About a decade ago, it was technology-assisted review (TAR). This year, generative AI took center stage – evident from the myriad of panels and sessions dedicated to it, the vendors promoting their new AI capabilities across the exhibit floor, and even in the private suites of Midtown Manhattan hotels. This surge in attention is unsurprising. The emergence of GPT just a year ago has vividly highlighted the potent potential of generative AI, propelling our industry into a period of intense focus on what this tech evolution means for us and how to best harness it. Concurrently, the looming threat to certain jobs and the ethical implications are stirring widespread public and professional concern, fueling the hype that enveloped Legalweek.

Despite the excitement, it's noteworthy that most AI tools presented at Legalweek are still early-stage generative AI systems. And yet, like GPT-4, they represent initial steps on our path towards artificial general intelligence. Similar to Chat GPT, the genius of generative AI lies in its capability to generalize in complex, non-linear ways, and to do so with striking, progressive enhancements as the models evolve. As these models and systems continue to advance, we anticipate a significant transformation in how data is analyzed and managed in legal contexts. This evolution will inevitably impact the work of junior associates and document review lawyers. Nevertheless, it's crucial to remember that, as a matter of professional duty, the outputs from these systems must be validated by qualified (human) legal practitioners, and this is expected to remain the norm for the foreseeable future.

The data revolution has changed law. You need a partner that has kept up.