Top 9 Legal Trends to Look for in 2024

Sat 04 May 2024

As technology continues to evolve at an unprecedented pace, the legal industry is undergoing a transformative journey, embracing innovative solutions to enhance efficiency, streamline processes, and deliver greater value to clients. From the integration of artificial intelligence and blockchain to the proliferation of virtual law firms, the horizon of legal tech promises innovation, efficiency, and unprecedented opportunities. We’ve talked to top thought leaders and experts in the industry to understand their predictions of future legal trends for 2024 and beyond.

1. Firms Not Using GenAI Will Be Left Behind

In 2024, GenAI is anticipated to reshape legal practices, offering efficiency boosts but not relieving lawyers of their ethical obligations. Failure to adopt legal AI, particularly in tasks like M&A and document review, may leave firms lagging behind in speed and accuracy.

“It will be surprising to see a dramatic shift in how lawyers practice law in 2024, due to the rise of Generative AI. However, it’s more likely that the industry will gain confidence in GenAI as it continues to have a positive impact on how we work.

Explicitly, GenAI does not remove any of the responsibility of the lawyer to be diligent and follow their ethical obligations. Instead it offers the ability to potentially start from an accelerated position in their workflow or shift duties as GenAI can take the first pass on many tasks.

When it comes to M&A or document review, NOT using GenAI and LLM tools will put firms at a serious disadvantage as they will not be able to work nearly as quickly, accurately or efficiently as firms that are leveraging these game-changing tools.”

- Adam Ryan, VP of Product, Litera

“Generative AI represents the next frontier across the legal landscape and pricing services is no exception. The use of these technologies introduces new complexity due to vast efficiencies in work product with far less time investment. While traditional billing models might struggle to accurately reflect the value derived from these tools, AFAs can better align with the value provided to clients. Transparency with clients to establish an agreed-upon fair value for AI-generated work product will be essential in the evolving legal landscape.“

- Andrew J Masak | Director, Strategic Pricing and Portfolio Management | Seyfarth Shaw LLP

2. Cybersecurity and Governance Solutions Will Be Prioritized

When it comes to legal operations trends, there's a heightened emphasis on cybersecurity and advanced data governance solutions to safeguard legal data.

“In 2024 we will see more of a focus on cybersecurity for legal data and more advanced data governance solutions. Legal operations are becoming more data-driven to improve effectiveness and client satisfaction. Data Lakes are becoming more prevalent to allow for more diverse datasets. And my favorite is a returned focus on the basics – taxonomy, process, and data hygiene.”

- Rachel Shields Williams, Director, Knowledge Management Enablement & Insights, Sidley Austin LLP

3. Cheap AI Plug-Ins Are Out and Robust Tools Are In

Legal research trends will be all about easy access to information and firm knowledge. Gone are the days of cheap plug-ins—firms need sturdy, reliable legal AI tools to accurately and efficiently produce information.

“Lawyers don’t have time to learn prompt engineering, and they won’t start in 2024. Law firms should prioritize evaluating technology that uses large language models to understand what a user is asking, by teaching it cognate words and synonyms, producing accurate responses without the need for a perfect prompt.

At Litera, we’ve already produced successfully written code to understand significant grammatical errors, which is beyond similar or dissimilar terms.”

- Adam Ryan, VP of Product, Litera

4. AFAs Are Increasing in Popularity

According to a recent Litera survey, a significant portion of firms (70%) have embraced AFAs, driven primarily by client satisfaction and a shift towards value-driven, rather than time-driven, models. Flat fees emerged as the most popular choice among AFAs, with 66% adoption rate, signaling a departure from traditional billing practices.

“AFAs continue a decade-long upward trend. Shifting from cost-based pricing to value-based pricing provides law firms an opportunity to show clients the true value of a given work product independent of time. For clients this represents a fundamental realignment of incentives and delivers predictability.”

- Andrew J Masak | Director, Strategic Pricing and Portfolio Management | Seyfarth Shaw LLP

5. When it Comes to Vendors, Less is More

Consolidation will prove to be key for legal business trends. Legal tools remain paramount, but those that can integrate with existing tools to expedite processes and workflow will dominate. “Law firms will continue to migrate away from myriad legal-specific solutions and where possible leverage legal-specific integrations (ex: CAM for Teams, Upper Sigma for Salesforce).

Firms will look for the niche solution on industry-standard technology, which means we’ll likely see more firms move away from DMS to a legal-specific Microsoft solution.

As a technology company we’re doing the same thing internally – we’re gravitating to big providers and trying to standardize our tech stack while maximizing our investments.”

- Adam Ryan, VP of Product, Litera

6. Firms Will Rely on Trusted, Reputable Names for AI

In the same vein, law firms won’t waste time on experimenting with newer, start-up solutions and instead will turn to trusted vendors like Microsoft.

"In 2024, Microsoft Copilot will dominate. People will invest their time there instead of chasing startup trends. Last year, the buzz was all about ChatGPT, and firms were inundated with emails from AI startups. This year, I expect legal professionals to prioritize reputable vendors for GenAI platforms to explore practical applications in the legal industry.”

- Hunter Jackson, CKO

7. Mentor Culture Remains Crucial Amid AI and Remote Work

In terms of legal hiring trends, it’ll be more important than ever to keep mentor culture alive, especially as firms turn to AI for assistance and more and more legal professionals work remotely.

“Within the realm of lawyer education concerning Generative AI, there are a few concerns. Many firms have been challenged with figuring out how to train associates in an environment where many of a firm’s partners will be working from home.

This, combined with Generative AI taking away key tasks from first year associates can result in a loss of mentoring culture. It is in the firms and its partners’ best interest to take a proactive approach to training and mentorship for young lawyers.”

- Adam Ryan, VP of Product, Litera

8. Client-Facing Practice Innovation Will Gain Popularity

Firms are increasingly enhancing their client-facing practice innovation teams to incorporate GenAI education into their standard client service offerings.

“Many firms will beef up their client-facing practice innovation teams to provide GenAI education as part of standard client service. Firms need to own the narrative around legal AI usage, and how that aligns with the clients’ initial expectations about AI whether it’s about work product, legality, or costs.

With technology changing this quickly, it will behoove firms to proactively educate their clients on their AI strategy.”

- Adam Ryan, VP of Product, Litera

9. Billable Hours Will Become a Thing of the Past

A growing number of firms are transitioning to alternative fee arrangements (AFAs), suggesting the traditional billable hour may soon be outdated.

“New research from Litera shows that more firms than ever before are shifting from the billable hour to alternative fee arrangements.

“This is likely due to a need to stay competitive with declining M&A as well as how AI has improved efficiency. We see AFA’s as a win-win, with more focus on client experience and care and better-managed expectations around budgeting and costs.” 

- Barry Solomon, VP of M&A Integration, Litera

As we navigate through an era of rapid innovation, it becomes increasingly evident that embracing these legal technology trends is not just advantageous but essential for staying competitive in the legal field. From the integration of legal AI and machine learning to the adoption of cloud-based solutions and the rise of alternative fee arrangements, the future of law is undeniably intertwined with technological progress.

By staying informed, adapting to emerging trends, and leveraging the power of technology to enhance efficiency and client service, legal practitioners can position themselves at the forefront of innovation, ensuring their relevance and success in the dynamic world of modern law.

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