Not using GenAI will put firms ‘at a serious disadvantage’, and other 2024 predictions
The APAC lead for a global software provider has detailed numerous predictions for lawyers’ use of AI in the new year, with the necessity of AI use and the decline of billables chief among his anticipated outcomes.
Stefan Steenveld, the lead in the Asia-Pacific region for global risk management software provider Litera, recently reflected on the possibility that not using generative artificial intelligence moving forward could become “malpractice” for lawyers.
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“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,” he mused.
This said, he noted, it will be surprising to see a dramatic shift in how lawyers practise law in 2024 due to the rise of generative AI.
It is more likely, he deduced, “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.”
Further to this, Mr Steenveld went on, law firms will abandon cheap AI plug-ins in favour of more robust tools.
Firms will also, Mr Steenveld predicted, “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 behove firms to proactively educate their clients on their AI strategy.”
Mr Steenveld also said we could “finally” see the death of the billable hour in 2024.
“New research from Litera shows that more firms than ever before are shifting from the billable hour to alternate fee arrangements (AFAs). This is likely due to a need to stay competitive with declining M&A as well as how AI has improved efficiency,” he said.
“We see AFAs as a win-win, with more focus on client experience and care and better-managed expectations around budgeting and costs.”
“Lawyers don’t have time to learn prompt engineering, and they won’t start in 2024,” he posited.
“Law firms should prioritise 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.”
Holding onto mentoring culture, in the face of AI and remote work, will also prove to be a top priority, Mr Steenveld noted.
“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,” he said.
Ultimately, Mr Steenveld opined, 2024 will be the year of vendor consolidation for legal tech.
“Law firms will continue to migrate away from myriad legal-specific solutions and, where possible, leverage legal-specific integrations. Firms will look for niche solutions on industry-standard technology, which means we’ll likely see more firms move away from DMS to a legal-specific Microsoft solution,” he suggested.
“As a technology company, we’re doing the same thing internally – we’re gravitating to big providers and trying to standardise our tech stack while maximising our investments.”