Government Attorneys See Promise in AI and Technology, Says New Thomson Reuters Survey

Topics: Artificial Intelligence, Government, Legal Innovation, State Courthouses, Surveys, Thomson Reuters


Amid the challenges of increasing workloads and tightening resources, government law departments are willing to embrace technology advancements, including artificial intelligence (AI), according Government Law Departments 2018, a new Thomson Reuters survey of 218 government attorneys serving state, city and county jurisdictions nationwide.

Indeed, nearly half (48%) of government attorneys surveyed said they believe AI is a valuable tool for task automation, and 25% said they believe AI’s main benefit is to augment and scale their tasks and thus, allow attorneys to focus their attention on other tasks.

Government attorneys’ acceptance of technological innovations like AI could mean brighter days ahead, especially since those attorneys report that they spend approximately six hours each week “getting up to speed” on unfamiliar legal topics, with nearly half (46%) their time spent drafting, reviewing, and proofreading legal documents.

The Thomson Reuters survey, “Government Law Departments 2018”, is available here. You can also download an infographic of the key survey results here.

This relatively good news comes up against a more sobering reality. Almost three-quarters (72%) of government attorneys surveyed said they expect their workload to increase over the next few years. In fact, the survey showed that in 2018, the average government attorney was working on 33 unique legal issues each week, a slight increase compared to what was reported in the 2017 survey. Additionally, 62% of attorneys said they have been working on a wide variety of issues over the past two years, and 60% said they expect the trend to continue until 2020 at least.

Another factor impacting government attorneys is the potential loss of talent within their department. As explained in the 2017 survey, by 2019, nearly 50% of the full state and local government workforce will be eligible for retirement.

The concern over this “retirement wave” was evident in this year’s survey, with 38% of the attorneys surveyed saying a loss of institutional knowledge within their department was a concern, and 30% noted that their department was struggling to retain top talent.

This loss of talent could be especially hard-felt on the nation’s government attorneys as 74% of government attorneys noted they need to consult a colleague on unfamiliar legal matters at least once a week.

“While the work of government attorneys is challenging, the need to serve the public effectively and efficiently remains the top priority,” said Steve Rubley, managing director of the Government segment for Thomson Reuters. “And while attorneys worry about the demands within their department and the loss of institutional knowledge, their willingness to embrace advanced technology demonstrates their vision to improve efficiency and serve their communities.”