24 Voices for 2024: Report on Legal Tech Trends in AI & Automation

As technology continues to rapidly advance, legal teams find themselves in a perpetual race to adapt, innovate, and harness the power of emerging tools such as AI and intelligent automation. It’s a strategic imperative to compete in the fast lane and deliver better value to their clients and constituents.

NetDocuments’ latest report, 24 Voices for 2024:Trends in AI & Automationbrings together insightful perspectives from 24 global thought leaders, supporting three areas of discussion:

  • The rise of AI in legal
  • Putting AI into practice, and
  • AI’s impact on professionals

Within these areas, nine trends emerged that are creating seismic change and have the potential to drive unprecedented productivity — enabling teams to be more strategic and deliver better services.

The Rise of AI in Legal

Lawyers and legal teams are increasingly captivated by the vast possibilities AI holds, not only due to its broad appeal but also because of its potential to enhance their work lives and job satisfaction. AI can be used in eDiscovery, legal research, document management and automation, due diligence, litigation analysis, improving internal business processes, and more. The existence and promise of AI within the legal realm are unmistakable, with opportunities to enhance efficiency and elevate the effectiveness of legal work.

Terri Mottershead, Executive Director, Centre of Legal Innovation — “2023 was a year of experimentation, having such a powerful technology released into the world where we became the beta testers was something that we hadn’t really experienced before. There continues to be a lot of cautious excitement as we learn and adjust, and consumers are now turning into creators.”
‍According to a Thomson Reuters Institute survey, 82%of respondents expressed optimism about the potential use of generative AI n the legal profession. Both reflecting and illustrating how AI will impact the legal industry in coming years, The National Law Review reports that 36% of lawyers say that AI tools will be mainstream within the next five years.

AI signifies a notable departure from the traditional cautious approach of the legal industry towards adopting new technology. AI has a unique appeal that is driving its rapid adoption.

Putting AI Into Practice 

With an unprecedented focus on productivity in legal workflows, the adoption of next-generation automation technologies is on the rise. When strategically leveraged, these legal tech tools can optimize workflows, automate repetitive tasks, and empower legal professionals to provide enhanced strategic value to their clients.

Research by PwC underscores the impact, revealing that businesses can save between 30%-40% of the hours typically spent on manual tasks with the integration of AI. However, the challenge lies in identifying the technologies that will wield the most significant impact. Blindly adopting technology for its own sake may not necessarily enhance productivity or client satisfaction. It’s crucial to discern where automation can genuinely revolutionize efficiency without sacrificing the human touch.

Alex Bazin, Chief Technology Officer, Lewis Silkin LLP — “After implementing recent automations, some of the firm’s clients are already benefitting from reduced fees and exploring the opportunity to self-serve automations, while the firm’s lawyers have realized over 100 hours in time savings.”

By embedding AI enhancements natively into the tools legal professionals already use daily, such as Microsoft 365, integrations streamline the adoption process and remove productivity barriers. The integration of AI tools into existing legal software and systems enables lawyers to work within their familiar environments, minimizing disruptions and reducing the learning curve to make AI tools more accessible and user-friendly.

Another point of interest is that organizations have recognized the benefits of the cloud over on-premises systems in terms of cost, agility, resiliency, and capabilities of cloud-first strategies. AI is hastening the shift because it relies on the capabilities of the cloud.

On-premises systems pose a disadvantage as the legal industry continues to embrace AI. Because cloud-based technologies offer more flexibility and scalability, organizations are increasingly accelerating the switch from on-premises systems to cloud-based infrastructure and applications.

Debbie Foster, Chief Executive Office, Affinity — “There’s no question that many firms are still heavily dependent on on-premises systems, but it remains unclear how vendors will be able to integrate newer generative AI technology with those legacy systems …”

AI’s Impact on Professionals

As AI is used to handle more and more routine tasks, legal professionals’ efforts will shift to work that requires critical thinking skills, problem-solving, and domain expertise. As a result, legal departments will become more active in contributing to decision-making, helping shape strategy, and ensuring that legal and ethical considerations are integrated into the fabric of the organization’s operations.

Lawyers will increasingly focus on developing case strategy, crafting compelling legal arguments, and providing tailored advice by combining their legal expertise with AI-generated insights. Creativity and persuasion will be key human skills that AI can augment but not replicate. Additionally, as the legal field relies more on AI, ensuring ethics, eliminating bias, auditing algorithms, and preserving accountability will likely emerge as critical oversight functions for lawyers down the road.
Kim Wolfe, Managing Director, Head of Legal Business Solutions, Wells Fargo — “AI and other technologies combined give us an opportunity to create a whole different approach to learning, whether it be simulations or in a more hands-on way, without ever touching the tasks being completed by AI.”

Automation, AI, and the Future of Legal

The legal landscape is undergoing big changes with the emergence of new automation technologies fueled by AI. Law firms and legal teams across industries with a forward-thinking approach and collaborative partnerships with reliable vendors can gain a competitive edge and provide substantial value.

Discover much more about what leading voices are saying across the industry and how to prepare for the changes that are coming and those already here. Download the full report:

# # #‍

Kristy Nowell, Senior Manager, Content Marketing, NetDocuments