The promise and perils facing us in 2024
Everyone knows that making predictions is a fool’s errand. Nevertheless, taking a moment to consider where we’re headed can be both insightful and support planning, writes Mark Dodd.
By applying some logic and pulling on the thread of emerging trends and themes, we can build a possible (even probable) picture of the next 12 months for in-house counsel. In LOD’s end-of-year reflection and forecast paper, we made five predictions for 2024, which I recommend you read first. Now, let’s dive deeper and expand on those, adding fresh thinking and extra insights.
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Skill weightings will shift
The desired skills of an effective in-house lawyer change over time. It seems a little glib to write that, but it’s worth mentioning, as people can think that legal skills are more static than they actually are. For example, if you measured the ability of an in-house lawyer in the 1970s, their email communication style would be a silly proxy; this isn’t true today. Similarly, a lawyer in 2019 didn’t require any competence in using artificial intelligence (AI) to augment their research and drafting, and in 2024, they likely will.
An in-house counsel’s people management skills will become more important as AI begins to take on advanced legal capabilities. As these capabilities increase, lawyers may need to adapt their skills, and so-called “softer skills” will only become more important to the legal team’s effectiveness. It’s time to embrace the shifting skills and demands of in-house legal and allow AI to redefine the business as usual (BAU).
Good governance as a broad aid
Emerging issues such as environmental, social and governance (ESG), data safety, and financial compliance are all better addressed by organisations with robust governance structures. In 2024, we’ll see GCs get their houses in proper order – if not already done. Once those structures are set, leaders will be in a position of strength to deal with the unexpected and new developments in those areas. I anticipate the evolution and consolidation of the cottage industries that currently help in-house legal leaders manage and embed good governance. A word of caution on a related area: following the very recent scandal at Harvard, due diligence in retaining corporate DEI organisations will be more important than ever.
Co-pilots will get their wings
2024 will see the widespread adoption of AI co-pilots that are embedded in a lawyer’s environment – from Office to specific legal research tooling. Initially, I don’t think these will be super helpful, beyond sharpening up your emails (although I wouldn’t underestimate the value in that!), but over time, the capability of these co-pilots to automatically build your legal notes and summarise the position at law will become invaluable. By 2025, we won’t know how we managed it all previously. How did we manage before Microsoft Word?
‘Firefighters’ need downtime
In LOD’s global survey this year, we saw that 44 per cent of GCs were constantly firefighting. While firefighting is typically part of the job, the danger of chronic firefighting is severe. Leaders will need to reflect on how much time their team spends reacting versus planning. From the same survey, we saw that staff morale and retention is the most widespread emerging issue – this is interwoven with the reactivity piece. Carving out time for the legal team to be proactive is one of the biggest challenges facing GCs, and that won’t change in 2024.
While there is no doubt that 2024 will bring unforeseen events and curveballs that we simply cannot predict, it’s safe to suggest in-house legal teams should be thinking about the above four areas. We need to be prepared for the fact that what worked for us in 2023 may not be as effective in 2024. The long and short of it? Be ready to adjust, embrace change, and be cautiously excited about the promise of AI technology to better meet the challenges of 2024.
Mark Dodd is the head of market insights at LOD.