Top In-House Counsel Band Together to Experiment with Gen AI

Isabel Gottlieb
February 23, 2024

Originally published on Bloomberg Law

  • Members of the group will meet and collaborate on AI topics
  • Lawyers from Intel, Adobe, Ford are among first members

For all the hype and excitement around the potential of generative artificial intelligence to transform the legal industry, corporate legal departments are largely still in the “experimentation” phase of using the technology, according to the leader of a new project that will bring together in-house lawyers to discuss best uses of AI tools.

“The way that generative AI is being accessed is still being figured out, whether that’s through third-party tech products on the market, or whether that’s directly through chat interfaces that are entering into every organization’s enterprise stack,” like Microsoft Copilot or OpenAI’s ChatGPT Enterprise, said Ed Sohn, global head of insights and innovation at the legal consultancy Factor, which has offices in the US and Europe.

Generative AI’s ability to digest and create large amounts of text has many in the legal industry excited about its ability to transform the way lawyers do work. Proponents of the technology point to its potential to help lawyers draft contracts and briefs, and make legal research and e-discovery quicker and more efficient. But in the year and a half since Chat GPT rocketed into public consciousness, legal departments are still working to understand what it will mean for them, Sohn said.

At Intel, the legal department has been using older AI technologies for tasks like e-discovery and contracts for a while, said Mike Haven, head of global legal operations at Intel and former president of the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium, a trade association for the profession. But, “generative AI is newer, and we’re more experimenting with it still,” he added.

“We’re not rushing solutions out, we’re playing with things in a sandbox and determining what should be released out in the wild in a very deliberate way,” Haven added.

The Collective

Factor is leading the group, which it’s calling The Sense Collective. It comprises general counsel and heads of legal operations from companies including Adobe, Ford, Intel, and Microsoft.

The group started with seven member companies, which Factor reached out to, and several more are joining this week, Sohn said. Membership, which requires a financial commitment, is still open but will be capped at 15 to 20 organizations, he added.

The group will discuss “what are the solutions that will give us and our organizations the most value?,” Haven said.

For example, the Sense Collective will tackle questions like the best use of Copilot—a generative AI tool Microsoft is embedding across a number of its enterprise products, and which is already widely in use, Sohn said.

The group will also explore questions about generative AI, including its impact on where legal departments make investments, how it affects in-process initiatives, how legal departments counsel other functions within a business, and how to deal with novel questions coming up around AI and responsibility and safety, Sohn said.

The group’s outputs will largely be limited to members and not commercialized or resold, Sohn said, adding, “the only way to access the direct benefits of The Sense Collective is by joining it.”

Some group meetings will happen quarterly, with “touchpoints” more often, Sohn said. One workstream will build generative AI prototypes for legal use cases.

RAG Time

Sohn said he was also excited to see the development of the technology known as retrieval-augmented generation, or RAG, which can help make a generative AI tool more accurate by asking it to draw an answer from within a limited set of information.

RAG lets organizations tap into their institutional knowledge, “in a way that’s organized, that gets clear answers,” Sohn said.

The technology isn’t new, but “was not the most mature” in 2023, he said, and “also wasn’t, and I would dare say even still today isn’t totally ready for prime time.”

The collective will watch developments like RAG, “tracking when those things really cross the frontier from being on the side of the line that is hypothetical and exciting and then crossing the line into ‘it’s ready and productive’,” Sohn said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Isabel Gottlieb in New York at igottlieb@bloombergindustry.comTo contact the editor on this story: Alessandra Rafferty at