In the year since the advent of ChatGPT, it seems that the legal industry’s conversations have realigned in a new orbit around the topic of generative AI. This year, Stephanie Wilkins, editor of Legaltech News, even joked, “What did we talk about before GenAI?!”
For good reason, it’s the focus of our top predictions for 2024:
GenAI Will be the Killer App for Legal
Today the $950 billion global legal services market depends heavily on human analysis and synthesis of an ever-growing corpus of texts, chats, emails, and other documents to litigate and investigate. The adoption of AI could automate nearly half (44%) of legal tasks in the US and Europe, according to a Goldman Sachs report issued in March.
This transformation is rooted in the fact that language serves as the core currency in legal practice. The remarkable capacity of large language models (LLMs) to craft, review, and synthesize complex and voluminous documents positions GenAI as game-changing, as seen in Everlaw AI Assistant, which can halve the time to complete core legal work.
In 2024 and beyond, GenAI promises a greater opportunity for truth to transform legal outcomes by being able to interrogate even more data in the expanding pool of legal discovery. GenAI will change the way legal professionals work – especially paralegals and junior attorneys, who will likely use GenAI for first drafts and summaries to speed up their work – and avoid the mundane document review that has characterized the work of their predecessors.
Although today only about 1% of civil cases filed in federal court are resolved by trial, GenAI may drive more cases to trial considering the cost and time of review will be cut, which is often the impetus for settlement. GenAI may narrow the access to justice gap by leveling the playing field. In whole, GenAI is a disruptor like no other that the legal industry has seen – far beyond what fax machines, email, and cloud computing have wrought.
Everlaw has compiled more specific predictions across its team for the next year and beyond. Here are our best estimates of what changes may come to the legal industry:
1. AI Output as Evidence Will Get a Serious Look In 2024
The most serious issue will be how to detect and manage deep fakes that are submitted for discovery and used as evidence. Without controls, we risk submitting deep fakes to juries and becoming unable to unring the bell if a fake is subsequently found. New rules of evidence will be proposed in federal and state judiciaries, both for civil and criminal procedure. Legal tech think tanks, judges, and lawyers will confront the issue with mechanisms by which parties submit their exhibit lists early and have an opportunity to challenge authentication. There will be proposed new Federal Rules of Evidence to accommodate new procedures.
– Chuck Kellner, Strategic Discovery Advisor
2. The Year 2024 Will See AI Misused Regularly – But That Will Not Stop Its Progress
We’ve already seen examples of lawyers submitting ChatGPT-drafted filings to court, complete with hallucinated case law. And courts have been swift to respond when parties misuse non-specialized generative AI tools without proper guardrails. But what happens when pro se litigants start leveraging GenAI en masse? The coming year is likely to see court resources strained as everyone from standard self-representing parties to serial sovereign citizen litigants turn to generalist GenAI tools to do their legal work – often with dismal results.
But there’s a positive corollary: 2024 is also likely to see the first truly significant applications of GenAI for access to justice issues. Increasingly powerful LLMs will make it considerably easier to create specialized, fine-tuned GenAI applications for those otherwise priced out of the market for legal services.
Developing and delivering these tools at scale could mean the difference between a legal system that’s overwhelmed by generative AI and one that’s measurably improved by it.
– Casey Sullivan, Director, Content
3. Ediscovery Leaders Will Grapple with the Preservation, Metadata, Possession, Custody, and Control of GenAI Data
Hundreds of new GenAI-based applications are creating content in the workplace. The new content will be at issue in litigations, investigations, and arbitrations. Requesting parties will want it. Responding parties will struggle to identify and preserve it, particularly if it is integrated into mainstream applications. As an industry we will grapple with questions like:
Who is the creator of this ESI?
Who is the custodian?
Does the responding party have the requisite possession, custody, and control to be required to produce it?
Who can authenticate a prompt or output if it is to be used as evidence?
What metadata will we be required to associate with the GenAI - created prompts and content?
Novel ESI protocols and discovery orders will address these questions in 2024. There will be case law in 2024 coming from ediscovery motions to compel and motions for protective orders.
– Chuck Kellner, Strategic Discovery Advisor
4. GenAI Will Drive a Renaissance for Legal Operations
A survey by the Association of Corporate Counsel this year showed that 66% of corporate legal teams said they will bring work in-house to reduce costs, compared to 59% in 2022. If legal teams take on more work (like ediscovery) in-house, and headcount doesn’t grow, we can’t be successful without automating other tasks to make room for the additional work.
The introduction of GenAI in the corporate legal department will allow us to dramatically increase the scope of the work we handle internally by operating as a force multiplier for our existing bandwidth. Legal ops professionals will be the ones to see the opportunity and spearhead this transition, especially because GenAI features could speed core legal work product, like summarizing key documents for clients, and preparing for depositions, mediations, dispositive motions, and trials by at least 50%.
The potential efficiency gains that will enable legal teams to focus on the strategic work only lawyers can do are sizeable, too. We’ll see a legal operations renaissance as in-house teams look for greater guidance and strategy around deploying GenAI.
– Catherine Choe, Director of Legal
5. The Legal Industry Will Reach Consensus on How to Handle Short Messages
Short messages (Slack, Teams, Chat, etc,) outnumber corporate emails by at least a factor of ten and in some organizations, approach a factor of a hundred. They contain the knowledge and intent of custodians and key witnesses in every kind of dispute, but unlike emails and “files” and other traditional “documents,” their borders and context are nebulous, and various platforms group or thread them differently.
In 2024 we will develop some consensus among parties, technologists and courts about how to collect short messages, how to define scope for particular discovery scenarios, and most importantly, how we can focus review in the absence of content that would otherwise allow for uses of search criteria and technology-assisted review.
This consensus will settle around the communications of key witnesses in critical date ranges in ways that will help reduce overcollection and manage costs in hosting and review.
– Chuck Kellner, Strategic Discovery Advisor
6. Nobody Does GenAI Better than In-House Counsel
CLOs are under pressure to drive business, mitigate risk, control costs, and protect data. The emergence of GenAI and other technology couldn’t come at a better time to automate many of the mundane activities to help our teams move up the value chain. The use of technology signals a massive opportunity for in-house teams to drive change that we are hungry to realize.
Traditionally in-house counsel have looked to law firms for emerging technology choices. While outside counsel are critical to many of our goals, in terms of GenAI, I believe, we – the in-house team – are better positioned to take up this mantle ourselves. Law firm business models are not predicated on cost containment nor are they experts on our corporate goals.
As in-house counsel, our connection with IT, CTO, corporate policies and the entire C-suite means we already understand best how tech plays out across our organization. We can learn from the broader business – how all of our internal departments use GenAI, and how they conduct the change management needed for a successful transformation.
This is truly in-house counsel’s time to shine.
– Shana Simmons, Chief Legal Officer
7. Savvy MSPs Will Evolve to Optimize Legal Work In-House
With two thirds of in-house counsel indicating that they will bring work in-house to reduce costs, compared to 59% in 2022, there will be a disruption in the legal ecosystem around managed service providers.
Forward-thinking MSPs are contemplating this shift and reinventing the role they play. From historically focusing on document review, the shift to in-house work means that MSPs are wearing new hats: becoming change management gurus, AI evangelists, and providing the bandwidth to roll out and use ediscovery platforms, for example, to drive in-house productivity.
Those enterprising MSPs have an opportunity to become key to the digital transformation of the legal ecosystem.
– Rich Liu, Chief Revenue Officer
8. DIY Support for Access to Justice Will Increase
In 2024, we’ll see an uptick in capital outlays for justice tech ventures, specifically those using AI to tackle scaled problems in the legal system that can be addressed through technology.
Additionally, we’ll see the first sets of content generated by AI to help self-representing parties understand the justice system without legal training. Startups like Courtroom5 have already started down this path, and we’ll see more efforts to provide customized, comprehensible guidance for people who have to go it alone in the legal system.
Finally, legal aid providers, who currently have to turn away half of qualified applicants for lack of resources, will start to use AI more to make case selections and increase efficiency in their cases. As with many social sector issues where financial constraints restrict access to the latest technology, it will be important for funders and justice advocates to keep an eye on equity and work to get the most cutting edge tools into the hands of those fighting to level the playing field.
– Joanne Sprague, Director, Everlaw for Good
9. FOIA Requests Will Spike as OpenAI Seeks Free Content to Feed its Models
With The New York Times suing OpenAI and Microsoft for copyright infringement, we’ll see that the value of information – fact-based articles, insights, analysis and more content – will rise in 2024, as GenAI companies search for large amounts of “free data.” The federal government is a huge source of technical and historical data, which could become a source of training material for GenAI engines such as OpenAI. The kicker is that the federal government must provide certain types of information to individuals under the Freedom of Information Act.
My prediction is that FOIA requests are going to skyrocket in 2024 as this information gets monetized in the AI gold rush, and the federal government, already buried under these requests, will face a backlog like they’ve never seen before. Smart agencies are preparing by looking at modernizing their review platforms, and even looking to AI to assist in the process.
– Alan Lawrence, head of Everlaw Public Sector
With this confluence of trends, Everlaw is ready to embrace the future head on, navigating the challenges and optimizing for the future of legal work. Here’s to 2024 and beyond!