Despite challenging workloads and tightening resources, government law departments see promise in technology advancements, according to a Thomson Reuters survey of 218 government attorneys serving state, city and county jurisdictions nationwide.
Of those surveyed, nearly half (48%) of government attorneys believe artificial intelligence (AI) is useful for task automation, and 25 percent said they believe AI’s main benefit is to augment, scale and help an attorney focus on additional tasks.
This trend is balanced against a more sobering reality. Seventy-two percent of government attorneys expect their workload to increase in the next few years with the average government attorney working on 33 unique legal issues each week – a slight increase compared to the 2017 survey. Additionally, 62 percent of attorneys said they have been working on a wider variety of issues over the past two years, and 60 percent expect the trend to continue at least until 2020.
Institutional knowledge and experience of colleagues are often the most valuable tools available, respondents said. For government attorneys, the need to consult a colleague on unfamiliar legal matters remained high, as 74 percent of government attorneys noted they seek help at least once a week. This comes at a time when loss of talent remains a key concern, as 38 percent said a loss of institutional knowledge was a concern, and 30 percent noted that their department was struggling to retain top talent.
“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.”
Accepting new technology could lead to brighter days ahead for government attorneys, especially since they spend approximately six hours each week “getting up to speed” on unfamiliar legal topics, and nearly half (46%) of their time drafting, reviewing and proofreading legal documents, respondents said.