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Automating Legal Workflows in 2024: The Question Is Not If, but How

— January 24, 2024

Legal professionals must embrace AI and, more importantly, make it work for them.

Economic pressures and technological advances will reshape workflows in 2024. Legal departments must find ways to manage a flood of new business while also navigating the exploding generative AI market. 

Legal technology can alleviate workloads and create new business opportunities, but the ever-growing number of available tools makes discerning the right solution challenging. Legal leaders must be thoughtful about their technology investments in the coming year. 

Increased economic pressure

Pent-up market demand threatens to overwhelm legal departments. After a conservative end to 2023, new business deals will surge in 2024. The race will be on to collect revenue quickly, compressing sales cycles from months to weeks. 

Most legal teams aren’t staffed for demand spikes, so a rapid influx of high-priority contracts sets the stage for bottlenecks and delayed approvals. In a highly competitive market, even minor delays hurt the bottom line. 

Law firms and legal departments must find a way to handle fluctuating demand and streamline contract processes. Traditional manual review approaches won’t survive 2024’s predicted turbulence. Adopting legal tech is the most cost-effective way to manage contracts. Many firms and companies recognize this fact, as nearly two-thirds of surveyed legal leaders plan to accelerate legal technology investments.

AI tools will be put to the test

Everywhere we look, software platforms are debuting new generative AI capabilities. In the rush to get to market, some companies didn’t stop to ask, “Does this functionality solve a real-world problem?” In many cases, these AI tools are a gimmick, not a solution. 

Legal leaders must look beyond the hype and peek behind the curtain to find the tools that meet their teams’ needs. Considerations include:

  1. LLM training data 

Many legal tech solutions are just interfaces for general large language models (LLMs). These algorithms serve many purposes, but legal work is not one of them. The expansive training data set inhibits AI models’ abilities to process and reflect the legal field’s critical nuances. 

An effective legal generative AI tool will be trained on domain-specific data. Legal leaders must scrutinize the LLM behind each platform to ensure the tool is suitable for their use case. 

  1. Data management

Legal teams operate under rigid guardrails regarding sensitive and confidential data. Leaders need to know if a tool:

  • Stores their data.
  • Trains on their data.
  • Allows others to access their data. 

Legal tech solutions must be specifically designed for the privacy and data security required in legal practice. 

  1. Integration options

GenAI cannot stand alone. Consider how the new solution integrates with the existing tech stack. A tool should fit seamlessly into workflows. If it creates extra steps, it’s not the right choice. 

  1. Human-centered design

AI should work for humans, not in place of them. An effective legal tech solution will augment legal professionals’ work by managing repetitive tasks and enabling human creativity and critical thinking. Leaders must carefully consider their team’s needs to find a tool that actually alleviates pain points. There are plenty of flashy solutions on the market, but many aren’t functional in daily workflows. 

Thoughtful technology exploration and implementation will help legal teams ride out the GenAI hype cycle. 

New business opportunities for legal teams

Rather than replacing legal jobs, AI will generate a greater need for people with legal training. Automation streamlines processes and increases a team’s capacity, allowing firms to take a wider variety of cases and clients. The more extensive caseload creates new opportunities for humans. 

Traditional manual review processes restrict lawyers’ focus to high-value cases and contracts, meaning they have to decline many potential clients. AI right-sources tedious tasks to give lawyers additional bandwidth.

Artificial intelligence, isometric AI robot on mobile phone screen; image by Fullvector, via
Artificial intelligence, isometric AI robot on mobile phone screen; image by Fullvector, via

For example, personal injury claims often have low returns on the extensive time and effort involved. AI makes them economically viable by shortening the timeline and reducing the workload. Legal tech solutions can review evidence, create briefs and generate demand letters in just minutes while lawyers focus on building client relationships and developing a legal strategy. 

Automating processes also makes legal work more rewarding. Highly trained legal experts aren’t wasting their time sorting papers. Instead, they can cultivate human connections, solve problems and accomplish more impactful tasks. 

Automation is a how, not an if

Moving into 2024, the question is not whether to automate — but how. Legal professionals must embrace AI and, more importantly, make it work for them. Thoughtfully implementing legal tech now positions legal teams for success in the rapidly evolving legal and economic landscapes.

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