The legal technology landscape in 2024: AI, cyberattacks and other future trends and challenges

An LSSA members discussion with LSSA CEO Kevin Horlock

2023 has seen generative AI take the world by storm, with individual law firms and the legal sector as a whole working to harness and capitalise on the capabilities that AI offers. In the past year, the continued adoption of all things digital has also seen an increased prevalence of cyberattacks within the legal sector, with the prevention of such potentially disastrous circumstances continuing to be an ongoing challenge. What will 2024 bring, and what is on the horizon for law firms as they navigate the opportunities and challenges created by innovation.

LSSA CEO Kevin Horlock asks a series of questions and discusses key trends in the Legal technology market for 2024 with a group of LSSA members.

Kevin asks

“What is the impact of ChatGPT and other AI tools on the legal technology industry? How will this develop in 2024? “

John Flanagan, Head of Product at LEAP replies,

“Those of us of a certain vintage will remember many great sci-fi movies from the 1980s where computers with artificial intelligence have taken over the world and are at war with humans. From the outside AI can seem a risk, but not harnessing its potential is foolish. Where we are with AI is where we were with Cloud 15 years ago – if we as software businesses don’t use it, we will be left behind by those that do.”

John mentions that there are some who suggest that AI is no more than a manifestation of the Infinite Monkey Theorem, in that if you put enough computer processing power behind a question, it will eventually come out with the correct answer. He thinks that this is a misunderstanding of generative AI, which uses highly sophisticated algorithms and machine learning to analyse data to identify patterns and structures to produce coherent and meaningful output.

John adds, “In the legal sector, we will see the introduction of a co-pilot for the work you are undertaking. This co-pilot will digest huge quantities of data for the area of law, look at specific circumstances, reference case law and analyse other data to help you achieve the best outcome for your client.”

Chelsea Goldsby, Operations Director of Osprey Approach thinks that AI tools will inevitably impact the legal sector in the coming years – like most other sectors – enabling teams to produce work and service clients quicker, easier, more accurately and with ensured compliance.

Chelsea comments,

“AI isn’t just about tools like ChatGPT: it can be embedded into existing tools to enable them to work smarter. For SME law firms, it’s about a shift in mindset to be open to change and innovation. A cultural shift is needed to enable firms to take advantage of the AI opportunities as they come, encouraging experimentation, testing theories, and trial and error.

Utilising existing workflow automations, client-facing tools, or document production features – within your case management software for example – is a good start to using tech to your advantage. “

Oliver Tromp, Regional Vice President, UK of Actionstep, expects that, in 2024, we will see an increase in existing legal technology suppliers leveraging large language models (LLMs) in the obvious areas: document automation, legal research, contract review, chatbots, etc. However, he also expects to see LLMs used in more complex ways such as compliance monitoring and predictive analytics. He thinks that law firms are a wealth of historical information, and the most innovative legal technology suppliers will help lawyers to leverage their own data to improve client service, efficiency and consistency.

Oliver says, “I also expect to see an increase in machine learning, specifically around time recording. Many legal professionals record time every day, and I expect to see time recording solutions become more intelligent and reliable at suggesting time entries based on the work that the lawyer has actually done. It’s also important to mention here that the adoption of this technology will also have a direct impact on security measures law firms take to protect their client and company data.”

The legal sector continues to be a target for cyberattacks. Kevin asks, “Why is this and what can vendors and law firms do to protect their businesses and clients in 2024?”

Chelsea Goldsby feels that law firms will always be a target for cyberattacks due to the data they hold and this is why having a detailed data governance strategy is the first step in protecting a firm, its employees, and client data. Chelsea mentions that It’s important to know what data you hold and where, who is responsible for maintaining it, how is it used and who can access it, and what are the retention policies and if they’re maintained.

Chelsea says, “Protecting your firm from a cyberattack must start with awareness and employee training. As well as stringent processes and protection in your infrastructure, ensure your team knows what to look out for and is trained to spot suspicious links. According to a research report by Stanford University and Tessian, 88% of all data breaches are caused by human error – something supported by several other reports.”

John adds, “The National Cyber Security Centre provides a handy guide of the ten steps any organisation should take to improve their cyber security. Only a small number of the steps have a technological solution, meaning technology itself won’t protect you. The human can be both your biggest cyber security asset, but also its biggest weakness.”

He mentions that on a technological level, as a law firm you should ensure your systems are secure; ensure all your devices and software are up to date, use multi-factor authentication, enforce a strong password policy or roll out a password manager, and finally ensure that your devices are encrypted.  When investing in new software for your firm, ensure its cyber security processes stands up to scrutiny by looking for SOC2 or ISO27001.

John thinks that without human awareness of the risks and how to manage them, technology is useless. He suggests,

”Invest in training to explain to your staff how easy it is for you and your data to be compromised; easy to guess and reused passwords, using unsecured networks and phishing are all very common ways for a hacker to compromise your systems. Continued education, coupled with some technological solutions, will mitigate most of these risks.”

Oliver adds, “More and more firms are moving to cloud-based platforms, like Actionstep, which often provide updated, high-level security measures and can quickly adapt to evolving threats. This is good for the industry. However, law firms need to understand the security infrastructure and whether their cloud hosting is private or public. One of the best things any firm can do in 2024 is stay up to date on cybersecurity essentials. Jonathan Ashley of etiCloud wrote a great cybersecurity checklist on Law Firm Ambition recently that should be bookmarked by every Risk and Compliance Officer. “

He further comments, “Another area that law firms should be scrutinising this year is integrations. Every year law firm technology stacks become more and more complicated as point solutions are added to address gaps. Many law firms are using a combination of on premise and cloud technology, and the different solutions often vary significantly in their security infrastructure. While the individual solutions may be secure, it’s important for law firms to understand how secure the integrations are and whether they are built “

For his final question, Kevin asks, “What other innovations and trends do you predict will emerge in 2024? What opportunities and threats will these trends and innovations create for the legal technology industry?”

Chelsea says, “For many years, the biggest challenge firms have faced is retaining and attracting talent. Without a strong team in place it becomes an impossible task to deliver on client service promises, ensure cashflow, and consistently meet your goals. This is why the biggest trend and opportunity for firms is to invest in the culture of the business. At the heart of it, this includes training and upskilling individuals but crucially, it also means running experiments to innovate, empowering leaders throughout the firm, defining new success measures, hiring non-legal talent, and proactively sharing ideas and knowledge to continuously improve.”

John adds, “This year will be the year that the first legal AI products come to market with wider adoption.  There are already some standalone products offering AI based contract management, and lawyers practicing in other areas will see tools becoming available.  We are at the start of the next legal technology revolution, and it is an exciting time to be working in this sector.”

Oliver inputs, “While much of the talk in the past year has been around AI, I actually think that the biggest trend we will see in the legal industry in 2024 will be around intuitive automation (IA). IA automates the connection between tasks and processes to make work more intuitive for the human user. It anticipates user needs, adapts to preferences and changes, and makes intelligent decisions without requiring constant programming or guidance. IA essentially integrates the activities within all of the tools and workflows at your law firm to support your ideal way of working. With time, firms using systems built with IA can learn from user interactions to improve their performance and accuracy. The most successful law firms and the most successful legal technology suppliers will be the ones that leverage IA to increase productivity, reduce errors, and enhance user experience.”

LSSA CEO Kevin Horlock summarises,

“Technological developments in software dedicated to the legal profession are taking great strides, as we see above.  As with all developments, they come with a health warning: protect your data at all costs.  What law firms need is software which meets their needs, both today and for the foreseeable future: in both cases, AI is proving a vital consideration.

We know that selecting the right package can put great pressure on hard-pressed practice-management staff and partners alike: yet that has to be the most important consideration for all law firms.  Get it right and the practice thrives, expands and works together: get it wrong and the practice stutters, loses clients and becomes fractious internally.  Because of all the technological developments we have seen recently, especially in AI, making a firm, initial specification of new or replacement software will continue to be the most important trend in the landscape of legal technology.

It starts with analysing what the practice does now and predicting what it will be doing in five years’ time.  How will software help it and what are the cost implications?  What impact will AI have on this?  How comfortable are the practice-management and finance staff with using the potential supplier and what training and support will they receive?  What return on investment in the software will the practice generate and over what timescale?  Can the software offer expansion of what it does initially and how will it use the fast developments in AI?  Does it run on an office-based server or in the cloud?  Does it have an integrated legal finance module or rely on third-party solutions?  These are just some of the questions a firm needs to ask of any software supplier and it needs answers in plain English.

Just as most of us don’t care about how the electricity in our home is produced as long as we can use the kettle, so most of us don’t care how our software works as long as it does the job we want it to do.  The initial specification is therefore all important and law firms are always invited to contact the LSSA for independent advice and discussions.  We represent members who have signed up to our Code of Practice: it is in their interests to provide the best software to suit the needs of their clients.”