In legal tech, complexity is overrated.

A recent survey from the ABA shows that law firms remain slow to adopt AI products. https://tinyurl.com/ABATechSurveyArticle  In fact, just 7% of respondents reported they use AI tech tools, with questions about accuracy and the cost offered as the primary reasons for the slow uptake. Since the survey was conducted in the initial months of the pandemic, this might come as a surprise. As we all spend our days on Zoom, technology adoption has been at the forefront of efforts to increase productivity while decreasing the need for personal interaction. However, the fundamental problem with many of the newer AI legal research tools is that they do not yet replace any necessary steps in the legal research process. Why incur the cost of these programs and invest in learning them without any consistent benefit, particularly at a time when firms are looking to cut costs?

AI products leave us in a conundrum in the research teaching community. As a group of early adopters when it comes to legal tech, we have been disappointed at the lack of transparency when it comes to understanding the search algorithms or the opportunity to experiment with some of these products. There is also often aggressive marketing directly to our students, who don’t understand these products either and come to us for guidance. We want to keep our students abreast of the latest technology that can help them in their legal careers. However, it is hard to teach students about a product we don’t understand.

Legal analytics products (for example, those products that correlate rulings and motion success rates), on the other hand, seem to be getting better law firm traction. However, even analytics products can give uneven results. A recent ABA article highlighted a study by law librarians at two large firms comparing search results between analytics platforms, and discovered wide variations in response to simple research commands. https://tinyurl.com/yyffw7jv . The authors’ takeaway was a familiar one: vendors must provide transparency, training and guidance on the use of their products.

Simplicity may be the key to longevity for all of these products, an idea underscored by a recent story in Legaltech news from Law.com, which describes law firm reluctance to give up Excel for more complicated management products https://tinyurl.com/y562hsvv .  Products marketed with transparency in their database content and search algorithms may ultimately win the day. Such products are easier to teach and inspire confidence in their results.  In this time of Covid-19, when we are all starting to feel tech fatigue, there may be a message here for our vendors. Remember the well-worn acronym, KISS (keep it simple, silly).

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