Note: This article has been updated from 2023’s trends.
As we step into 2024, the legal sector continues to evolve, shaped significantly by technological advancements and a changing global landscape. The industry, adapting post-pandemic, places a strong emphasis on digital solutions and innovative technologies. Below we’ll explore the key legal trends that are defining the industry in 2024, and reflect on how law firms and legal professionals are navigating these new challenges and opportunities.
AI & Automation Continues to Grow
As we progress into 2024, the landscape of AI and automation in the legal field has expanded remarkably. Initially focused on routine tasks such as billing and document management, these technologies have now permeated deeper into the legal process. With the explosion of data volume, law firms and corporate legal departments are increasingly reliant on automated AI solutions. These tools are critical for efficiently managing large datasets and enhancing client interactions.
The global legal technology market, projected to exceed $37 billion by 2026, is a clear indicator of this growth. Law firms are leveraging AI for more sophisticated applications, including predictive analytics, legal research, and case strategy development. Automation has transcended its initial role of handling mundane tasks and now plays a key role in boosting overall efficiency and reducing operational costs.
The adoption of AI and automation has become a necessity for law firms aiming to stay competitive. As we look towards 2024 and beyond, the integration and innovation of AI and automation technologies in legal practices are expected to be among the top trends, revolutionizing the way legal services are delivered and managed.
Use of Generative AI for Common Tasks
As we move into 2024, the legal industry’s reliance on generative AI for routine tasks has deepened. This technology is now a staple in legal research, document drafting, and litigation support, offering unprecedented accuracy and efficiency, but not all the time. Trust in the output needs to be earned from the tool at hand and awareness regarding made up output, so-called hallucinations, needs to be considered as the tool quality increases. A big concern is lack of oversight and unchecked trust in the tools used. AI’s ability to analyze legal precedents and suggest strategies has become an indispensable tool for lawyers. This evolution is not only streamlining workload but also opening new avenues for legal services, making them more accessible and affordable to clients.
Generative AI Causing Headaches for Companies
With the advent of generative AI, companies face novel legal challenges. Issues range from determining the authorship of AI-generated content to addressing the ethical ramifications of AI-based decisions. Copyright concerns are also growing as the AI tools increase their power and consume a larger set of data. The legal industry is seeing a surge in demand for expertise in navigating these complex areas, especially concerning compliance, intellectual property rights, and AI ethics. Law firms are actively developing specialized units to address these emerging issues.
Small Law Firms Could Struggle to Find Associates
The demand for associates proficient in AI and other legal technologies has escalated, disproportionately impacting smaller law firms. These firms are competing with larger, more tech-advanced firms for a limited pool of tech-savvy legal professionals. This competition is leading to a talent gap, where small firms must innovate and adapt to attract and retain the necessary expertise to stay competitive in the evolving legal landscape.
Firms are Embracing Private Cloud Tech for Security and Savings
Private cloud technology is a version of cloud-based computing and data storage where the online infrastructure belongs solely to the law firm that uses it. In other words, it is private and not accessible to the public. These private clouds usually have excellent (and special) security methods and protocols in place. This is particularly useful for law firms who may handle sensitive information regularly (via their clients and internal sensitive information). As cybercrimes continue to rise across the country, private cloud technology offers a more secure and reliable way to operate for law firms. Consequently, we fully expect to see the trend of private cloud tech usage among law firms continue to rise in 2024.
Additionally, and as mentioned above, you are seeing a new generation enter the legal field, who generally already have a working knowledge of cloud technology and how to use it effectively and efficiently throughout each workday. This makes it all the easier for law firms to implement. This often serves as a nice complement to the previously discusses AI and automation practices that many law firms are beginning to utilize more regularly.
Cybercrime and information breaches are trending upwards, notably in the legal sector. The transition by many law firms from in-person to remote or hybrid work environments has placed an abundance of sensitive information at risk from a hack or breach.
According to a recent report from the American Bar Association, roughly 30% of all survey respondents reported an online security breach in 2020. Even more troubling, many of those questioned were unaware if their law firms had been breached or not.
Ask any IT legal insider, and they will tell you that cybersecurity remains a top priority for legal professionals and will continue to remain one of their biggest challenges in the future. In response, many legal employers are now introducing rigorous cybersecurity and data protection measures that include remote systems and cloud-based storage solutions.
In-House Counsel Set to Completely Transform
The role of in-house counsel is undergoing a remarkable transformation, greatly influenced by advancements in AI technology. The integration of AI into legal departments is not only changing how legal advice is given but is also reshaping the structure of these teams. Due to the efficiency and capabilities provided by AI, staff changes are becoming inevitable. Traditional roles are evolving, and there’s an increasing need for nonlawyers to take on more complex duties that were once the sole domain of legal professionals. This shift is creating a more dynamic, interdisciplinary approach within in-house legal teams, emphasizing the importance of technological proficiency across all roles.
Alternative Legal Services and Fees
In 2024, the landscape of alternative legal service providers (ALSPs) continues to evolve. Law firms and businesses are increasingly outsourcing complex legal tasks to these specialized providers. ALSPs have expanded their offerings to include not only traditional services like document review, contract management, and litigation support but also more sophisticated services like advanced legal analytics and AI-driven contract analysis.
A notable development in 2024 is the emergence of new fee structures by ALSPs. Moving away from traditional hourly rates, many ALSPs are now offering value-based pricing, subscription models, and performance-based fees. This shift is in response to the demand for more predictable and transparent legal costs. The flexibility and cost-effectiveness of these new pricing models are making ALSPs more attractive to clients, especially small and medium-sized businesses that are looking for high-quality legal services at a manageable cost.
As the ALSP market continues to grow, we are witnessing the emergence of new service categories, driven by technological advancements and changing client needs. This trend is further democratizing legal services, making them accessible to a broader range of clients.
Focus on Diversity and Inclusion
Social justice and diversity tolerance have remained hot dinner table topics this past year. Simply put, diversity means building a team comprised of individuals with different talents, ages, genders, skin colors, religious beliefs, and other distinguishing characteristics. Achieving workplace diversity requires an inclusive and tolerant mindset, which should be a vital aspect of any company’s culture.
As law firms and companies place a greater emphasis on workplace diversity and inclusion, those viewpoints will be reflected in the recruitment process as employers seek ways to ensure a better cultural fit within their organizations.
Labor and Civil Rights Litigation Remain on the Rise
Labor and civil rights litigation continues to escalate, with a significant focus on digital rights and AI ethics. The legal industry is witnessing an increase in cases related to workplace automation, data privacy, and AI-driven discrimination. Law firms specializing in these areas are in high demand, as they navigate the complex intersection of technology, employee rights, and civil liberties. The rise in these litigations reflects the ongoing societal debate about the role and impact of technology in our daily lives.
Freelancing Increasing Among Smaller and Larger Firms
The introduction of sophisticated technology, combined with budget-conscious clients and the desire to work remotely, is shaping the future of the legal profession in the form of freelancers. Aided by the power of the Internet, freelancing lawyers are on the rise as they seek ways to break loose from the bureaucratic and demanding nature of legal offices and organizations while earning a living wage and enjoying a healthier work-life balance.
Freelance lawyers and other legal professionals can also freely pick and choose specialty areas and tasks they want to handle instead of working at brick-and-mortar practices. As a result, those freelancers are now spending more time with their family members without necessarily feeling the pressure or constraint of time.
Law firms and corporations of all sizes are now finding ways for these paid consultants to collaborate with their permanent legal staff as part of an overall strategy to improve workplace efficiency and reduce operating costs.
Expanding Role of Social Recruiting
Since social media is not going away anytime soon, social recruiting will shape the future of the legal profession for 2024 and beyond. Some examples of growing social recruiting practices include:
- Identifying and connecting with potential candidates on LinkedIn
- Sending candidates direct messages on Facebook
- Creating marketing videos on YouTube, Facebook, or Instagram pages that highlight a firm or agency’s services
- Candidate sourcing using online job boards like Indeed and Monster
- Sharing links to available positions that include relevant hashtags
As more Zoomers enter the legal workforce, it is driving the demand for legal headhunters and employers alike to develop effective social recruiting strategies.
Turnkey Digital Marketing Solutions that Anticipate Change
The only constant in the legal industry is that things are constantly changing. At Deep Footprint, the agency behind the Legal Recruiter Directory, we specialize in results-driven digital marketing solutions for legal headhunters and legal search placement firms.
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