Many thousands of words have been published lately about the impact of artificial intelligence on the law. Many of them, in Obiter’s opinion, are tosh. But this week, someone has at last got around to asking the only question on the topic which really matters: what’s in it for clients?

Alas, the answers collected by international firm Herbert Smith Freehills are not clear cut. And perhaps not what cynics might expect.

In a glossy paper Artificial Intelligence: the client perspective, Herbies says clients have ‘strong and varied views’ on AI ‘moving up the legal vertical’.

Oddly, no one seems to think these strong views include wanting smaller bills – at least not in so many words. ‘From a client’s point of view of the post-AI world, efficiency supersedes cost,’ Herbies declaims. ‘In the new legal landscape, productivity should be measured in terms of output per hour, or value contributed. This is certainly how our clients view things.’

However, it concedes: ‘Clients will push back on charges based on a legal provider’s AI tools’, which Obiter translates as ‘Why am I paying for stuff I could Google?’

In response, firms should ‘Recast the relationship dynamic’, ‘Embrace new business models’ and ‘Reshape the talent pool’.

In all the report runs to roughly 1,600 words of text, which would fill a page and a half of the Gazette. Herbies spins it out to 12 pages, including covers, with the help of acres of white space and graphic art. Obiter is especially intrigued by page four, a full-page graphic captioned: ‘AI technologies are already helping to improve client service delivery.’ This is illustrated by (we think) a yellow neuron, containing the words ‘Improved client service delivery’. Obiter suspects there’s a bit more to it than that.