4 ways AI can help small law firms amplify efficiency

Two attorneys smiling while looking at paperwork

Jump to:

  Improve client intake

  Non-billable administrative work

  Large-scale data analysis

  First-draft client correspondence

Lawyers, like just about everyone else, have been amazed at the very impressive capabilities of generative artificial intelligence (AI) tools. These programs can generate text, create images, and “respond” to prompts in human-like fashion. Seeing what generative AI tools can do may be intimidating to some, but it’s worthwhile to think about how they can help streamline the practice of law and make work easier.

In its Future of Professionals Report on AI, Thomson Reuters took a thorough and comprehensive view of AI and how it will likely innovate how professionals do their jobs. For this post, we reviewed the report and highlighted the ways in which generative AI tools can help lawyers become more efficient.

1. Improve client intake

FindLaw research has shown that many small law firms and solo attorneys could improve their client intake skills. They risk losing new work if potential clients aren’t responded to in a timely matter and seek services elsewhere. Chatbots are an excellent way to give clients the accurate impression that they have been seen and spoken to, no matter what time of day they are reaching out. While chatbots can’t handle a client’s case, they can gather the basics like contact information and the general nature of the client’s issue so you can cut right to the chase. 

2. Non-billable administrative work

Work that can’t be billed for is the bane of many a lawyer’s existence. This work doesn’t result in payment, but it can’t be neglected entirely because any legal practice, no matter the size, needs it to run smoothly. Generative AI tools hold great potential to take care of this usually detailed work and give you greater room for professionally fulfilling work that can be billed for. For example, generative AI tools can proofread blank forms, suggest ideas for marketing, and help with time-tracking and billing. You would be hard-pressed to find any attorney who wouldn’t welcome the opportunity to outsource this facet of their practice.

3. Large-scale data analysis

Lawyers at small law and solo firms often have very little sense of how their practices operate numbers-wise. Take, for example, flat-fee wills, estates, and trusts work. It’s easy enough to have a rough idea of whether the fee being charged is commensurate with the work and effort put forth, but if that rough idea isn’t accurate, then there’s too great a risk of operational inefficiency.  

Generative AI tools are very good at taking large amounts of data and synthesizing it into something useful and actionable. To return to our example, a generative AI tool could take, say, three years’ worth of hours billed and compare them to revenue generated from flat-fee work — and you as the attorney can decide if that work is worth it or if the fee model needs to be changed. In this way, generative AI could help make just about every small law practice more effective, efficient, and manageable.

4. First-draft client correspondence

Lawyers are trained to express themselves in writing using a very formal, almost academic tone. This approach often doesn’t translate well to client communication because it can come off as distant and lacking in warmth. With proper prompting, generative AI tools are quite good at drafting correspondence that comes across as courteous, professional, and empathetic — qualities that are most welcomed by clients who are facing a distressing issue. Not only can this save you time, but it can even result in a better client relationship. 

As generative AI tools continue to improve, their role in your practice will no doubt expand, allowing you to be more efficient and have plenty of time for more meaningful work. Download a copy of Thomson Reuters’ Future of Professionals Report and learn how AI is transforming every aspect of work. 

3 takeaways from the Future of Professionals Report on generative AI

Generative AI tools hold enormous potential for professionals in almost every industry — that includes law.  

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