GenAI: Sharpening Decision-Making and Enhancing Adaptability in Legal Ops

David Mainiero
April 26, 2024

GenAI bring seismic changes to legal operations, and more specifically, to in-flight strategy, investments, and change roadmaps. This amplifies the critical need for sharp near-term decision making and adaptability in the face of AI's transformative potential.  

Because GenAI is far more than a “technology” – prior generations of technology advancement are poor analogs for the scope, breadth and pervasiveness of the change mandate now in front of the profession. So, what are the “no-regrets” actions that should be taken today, to best lay the foundation while delivering results for the immediate horizon? In this blog, we share key considerations for long-term planning in the face of known unknowns, particularly relative to the fast-evolving landscape, to help you understand the implications of AI advancements on current initiatives and how to pivot effectively to leverage these innovations.

Remember the human in the loop 

GenAI presents a challenge for legal operations: making fast decisions with far-reaching impacts on both clients and legal teams. Under pressure and in the face of failure, it’s vital to show sensibility - the ability to blend technical and analytic “sense-making” with the leadership acumen necessary to deeply understand and respond to the human elements of change. That is what we think of as “sensibility.”   

By cultivating emotional intelligence, influence, and empathy, you can seize a rare and transformative opportunity, guiding your organization towards an AI-enabled competitive advantage. 

Discovery, not design, as the new mantra 

As GenAI pushes business into uncharted waters, FOMO and the pressure to act quickly to avoid falling behind is driving behavior. Yet the uncertainty around GenAI makes it difficult to develop and implement AI strategy in the face of unknown futures. And in legal technology, GenAI is making an appearance in every software platform and offering – all competing for mindshare as the path forward.    

So how to make the right choices while maintaining flexibility and optionality?   

The pace of GenAI is forcing a shift in orientation towards discovery, not design – creating the environment in which the most impactful capabilities are “discovered” through testing and experimentation – complementing but in some cases, in contrast to traditional legal ops roadmaps defined by a fixed set of target new functional components or capabilities.    

The punchline: As discussed in the Sense and Sensibility whitepaper series, be conscious and intentional in this shift, to allow room to embrace “discovery” as core to paving the way to becoming an AI-integrated legal organization.   

Rethink the “more with less” challenge 

With the adoption of GenAI, true client-centricity is finally available. The cost savings trap of “more with less” is unacceptably low as a bar.  

Legal ops can now deploy powerful, on-demand GenAI capabilities in nimble ways to supercharge the effort of legal workers, enable human-machine collaboration and obliterate conventional thinking about productivity and efficiency.  

For the better part of three decades, legal innovation has focused on process improvement and knowledge management, with mixed results. Increasingly, GenAI is taking on the role of a virtual teammate — or an army of virtual teammates — that can read, research, operate, and draft in ways that a legal professional can. We are now presented, for the first time, with the possibility of true scale in legal work. Multiples, not mere percentages, are now within reach to answer the decades old challenge of “more with less.” 

Place the client at the center of transformation 

As we enter a new era of legal transformation, value will be measured, not only in cost control and efficiency gains, but also in progress toward objectives that are distinctly human-centered. The foreseeable future is a buyer’s market, and legal ops can flex unprecedented influence in the strategic sorting of legal markets, across service providers and technology vendors.  

Legal ops should examine differentiated capabilities and a compelling value prop across the entire legal supply chain with a heightened commercial awareness.  

Think about upskilling and reskilling your team 

As an accessible, “bionic teammate,” GenAI requires a shift towards an environment rich in interactive AI collaboration. This critical path begins with upskilling and reskilling the current team — there is no readily available pool of talent today with all the skills of the future. Changing a legal team’s ways of working is possible for those who have earned and accumulated the trust of the team. 

Tell a compelling story of your AI vision 

To be transformative, you need to tell a clear and compelling story of the success you envision in an AI-enabled future — for your organization, function, and supplier network. Commit to learning and lead by example by engaging in GenAI learning to provide business-critical guidance across the organization.  

Shape your AI strategy by understanding current capability and future trajectory; integrate AI into your own work to model adaptive learning and adoption.  

Directing AI use in high-impact executive activities, like analysis and decision-making, will help engage stakeholders more meaningfully with the art of the possible.  

Work closely with a cross-functional team that unites technical expertise with business acumen to manage change and reshape the legal function and supply chain. 

Don’t fear failure 

Better to fail fast, than flail slow. Expand the definitions of success to include smart learning and failure to include not trying. Driving large-scale, high-impact transformation demands personal vulnerability and courage. You will inevitably encounter failure and setbacks; it’s how you cope with those setbacks that will dictate whether trust is gained or lost.  

Some parting advice extracted from Sense and Sensibility Part 2

  • Transformative leaders will integrate trust-building deeply into protocols for decision-making and communications.  
  • Seek input and feedback proactively to feed into decision-making protocols  
  • Explain decisions with emphasis on how they affect people  
  • Contextualize major decisions by connecting its relevance to the envisioned future 
  • Orient near-term priorities on a roadmap and tie them to milestones that mark meaningful progress toward the long-term vision  
  • Align prioritization, sequencing and resource allocation decisions to company and business unit objective 

David Mainiero moderated a session at CLOC (Corporate Legal Operations Consortium) Global Institute on ‘Generative AI: Disruption and Adaptation in Legal Operations’ with panelists including Sheila Dusseau, Head of Global CLO Operations and Innovation at Ferring Pharmaceuticals, Jessica Jones Escalera, Head of Legal Operations – Americas, HSBC, and Ashley John, Head of Legal Operations at Anglo American. Read the recap here