Bloomberg Law
May 10, 2023, 9:00 AM

ANALYSIS: AI Has Entered the Chat—Is the Legal Industry Ready?

Stephanie Pacheco
Stephanie Pacheco
Legal Analyst

Artificial intelligence (AI) has been around for decades, but the rise of public-facing chatbots has seemingly ushered in a new era.

Bloomberg Law’s most recent State of Practice Survey asked nearly 800 law firm and in-house practicing attorneys about their familiarity with and views on generative AI and how their organizations have responded to recent developments in the technology.

Their responses reflect that there’s still great uncertainty among legal professionals and that much work needs to be done before large-scale implementation can occur in the legal industry.

Some Talk, Little Action

Ninety-six percent of attorney respondents had at least heard of generative AI—which we defined in a question about how lawyers use the technology.

Over one-third of the respondents shared that they’ve used generative AI, but most of these attorneys haven’t used it in a professional capacity. Surprisingly, nearly 60% of attorneys reported having no experience using generative AI.

Although almost all of the attorneys who responded had heard about generative AI, it was slightly concerning to me that dozens reported that they’d never heard of it, given the ubiquity of the topic. I had also anticipated that more respondents would have tested some generative AI model for curiosity’s sake. As the technology continues to develop, however, I predict that more attorneys will try it out.

The survey also asked attorneys to identify what their organization has done in response to the rise of generative AI, and the responses between law firm and in-house attorneys diverged, at least slightly, on most options.

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A greater percentage (49%) of law firm attorneys than in-house respondents (41%) reported that they were unsure what their organization had done in response to generative AI. These responses suggest that there’s more communication surrounding generative AI in legal departments, or there’s more likely to be organization-wide conversations at corporations rather than firms.

Additional responses from in-house lawyers support this proposition:

  • Over one-third of in-house attorneys reported that their legal department has prioritized enhancing the understanding of generative AI with internal discussions.
  • A greater percentage of in-house attorneys reported that their organization has encouraged attorneys to use generative AI tools, although the survey didn’t ask in what capacity—professionally or personally.

Although legal departments have started cultivating more AI-friendly environments internally, according to the data, a higher rate of law firm attorneys (16%) than in-house attorneys (6%) reported that their organization has started advising clients on generative AI implementation. A likely explanation are the differing job responsibilities of firm attorneys and in-house counsel.

These responses indicate that the legal industry isn’t ready for the large-scale implementation of technology that leverages generative AI. However, the technology isn’t quite ready for the legal industry either.

Slow and Steady Wins the Race…

The legal industry has long been averse to change. However, in the case of AI, a cautionary approach is warranted. For one, many tech giants have voiced concerns over the rapid development and implementation of generative AI tools and have called for regulations to limit potential harm from bad actors. Some tech companies have banned employee use of AI over privacy concerns.

Additionally, the potential dangers of artificial intelligence have already started to infiltrate the legal industry including:

Even though there’s a certain risk associated with greater use of AI tools—particularly conversational chatbots built on large language models—the risk can’t be mitigated if the industry doesn’t make an effort to enhance its understanding of these tools.

Firms and legal departments are—to some extent—opening the door to conversations that provide insight into and enhance the understanding of generative AI, based on the survey data. However, attorneys also need to take it upon themselves to develop a basic understanding of the technologies.


Even though a majority of attorney respondents reported having no experience using generative AI, most of them disagree—either somewhat or strongly— that the technology has the ability to or actually will replace lawyers.

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While I agree with the overall sentiment that AI does not—in its current state—have the ability to entirely replace attorneys, that’s not to say that it doesn’t have the ability to impact the legal job market. Hiring for AI talent has already begun in the broader job market, and with more lawyers gaining access to AI-centric technologies, it’s likely the legal industry will eventually find itself in the same position.

So while AI probably won’t replace lawyers, lawyers who have a better understanding of AI will likely replace those who don’t.

Bloomberg Law subscribers can find related content on our Surveys, Reports, and Data Analysis page, Legal Operations page, and In Focus: Artificial Intelligence page.

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To contact the reporter on this story: Stephanie Pacheco at

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