The advanced development of artificial intelligence (AI) accelerates by the day, forcing companies in just about every industry to contemplate the kind of disruption, ethical considerations, and business opportunities it will hasten. With a combination of legal and business judgment, you, as the general counsel (GC), must play a key role in these deliberations.

In addition to managing the impact on your companies and industries, you will also have to understand what AI’s advancement means for the delivery of legal services. For some time now, AI has made repetitive tasks faster and more efficient, freeing up lawyers to do more high-end work. AI tools, for example, can already assist with due diligence and electronic discovery; produce basic contracts; and help better predict litigation outcomes based on case law and a judge’s previous rulings.

Embracing AI

Many GCs have embraced these tools. To cite one example, Alan Bryan, senior associate GC of legal operations and outside counsel management at Walmart Inc., recently told Corporate Counsel about a new AI tool that is reducing the time its lawyers spend drafting answers to litigation and initial discovery requests.

Some GCs have told us they are eager to deploy AI to more areas, such as regulatory compliance, where there is potential for savings, efficiencies, and fewer errors.

But AI’s influence has only just begun to be felt in the legal industry, making it important for you to keep abreast of new developments and to strategically test and evaluate tools to understand their benefits, limits, and drawbacks. As AI offerings become more popular and widespread, it will be up to you to effectively communicate to management how to best take advantage of legal AI and what kinds of returns on investments can be expected.

The Future of AI

The fact is that AI is only going to become more and more sophisticated. The only question is how quickly. In a recent Thomson Reuters survey of more than 200 in-house counsel, eight percent of respondents with large legal departments (more than 11 lawyers) predicted AI will be mainstream in corporate legal departments within two to three years; 19 percent said within five years; and 36 percent said within 10 years.

Still, while there is a wide range of opinions about how quickly AI will spread, there is consensus around one point: “AI will not replace the need for the high-level counsel and judgment that GCs provide. That kind of work cannot be automated,” says Richard Taylor, GC for bandwidth infrastructure provider euNetworks Group.

“I don’t think that AI changes what is needed from my role,” says Taylor. “My role is more often about judgment and about getting my team to the right solution based on my assessment of the situation and the people involved and my experience.”

Is your role as GC being redefined?

Not so long ago, the GC would not have been expected to understand, never mind deploy, AI applications. While the market is seeing a proliferation of legal tech offerings, how will you get comfortable with the level of trust you place in the outputs of an AI application? How often will your judgment trump AI?