The use of AI in legal may not be as widespread as one would think: Only 10 percent of lawyers used artificial intelligence-based tech tools for their legal work in 2018.

The findings come from a survey conducted in the ABA’s “2018 Legal Technology Survey Report,” with 900 respondents from across the nation and at firms of various sizes.

While only 10 percent of respondents reported they used artificial intelligence-based technology tools, respondents at large law firms with over 100 attorneys were most likely to use the technology (26 percent). Specifically, 35 percent of respondents from large firms with 500-plus attorneys reported they used AI, compared to 23 percent of respondents at firms with 100-499 attorneys.

Alternatively, respondents at firms with a 50-99 headcount were the least likely to use AI (three percent), followed by four percent of respondents at firms that employ two to nine attorneys. Eight percent of solo practitioner respondents said they used AI, along with nearly 12 percent of attorneys at firms with 10-49 attorneys.

Nearly half, 45 percent, of respondents said they weren’t interested in purchasing AI-based tech tools. While only three percent of respondents at 100-plus lawyer firms responded as such, over half of solo lawyers (65 percent) and lawyers at boutiques (60 percent) said they had no interest in purchasing an AI-based software.

Meanwhile, only eight percent of respondents said they were “seriously considering” purchasing AI software tools. Respondents at firms with 100 or more attorneys were most likely (16 percent) to report they were considering an AI purchase, according to the report.

The lack of interest in AI among smaller firms may stem from uncertainty about artificial intelligence’s possible benefits. 

For instance, 41 percent of all respondents said they didn’t know the most important benefit AI-based tech tools could provide their firms. Only 27 percent of respondents from firms with 100-plus attorneys shared that sentiment, while at least 40 percent of firms with less than 49 attorneys also said they didn’t know any AI benefits. 

For those that saw a benefit in AI, saving time/increasing efficiency was the highest-rated advantage that AI-powered software could provide, according to the report.

In addition, document review and document management was cited by nearly one-fourth of respondents as an important benefit (25 percent), followed by reducing costs and predicting outcomes/reducing risk.

At 44 percent, cost and accuracy of technology were the top two concerns for implementing AI, followed closely by technology’s reliability (42 percent), according to the ABA.

Interestingly, 61 percent of respondents at Big Law (firms that employ 500-plus attorneys) cited accuracy of technology as their biggest concern about AI, the only response to receive a consensus of over 50 percent.