The State of In-House Legal 2024

Dylan Chambers

Published:

Jun 24, 2024

Dark blue graphic with white text titled 'The State of In-House Legal 2024.' The text reads: 'In 2024, the legal industry stands at a crossroads, where traditional practices intersect with cutting-edge technology.' The graphic includes an icon of a gavel on the right side.

In 2024, the legal industry stands at a crossroads, where traditional practices intersect with cutting-edge technology. The rise of in-house legal teams has been a significant trend over the past few decades, driven by the need for cost efficiency, strategic alignment, and proactive risk management.

Now, the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) is set to further revolutionise the sector, offering unprecedented opportunities for efficiency and innovation.

The legal AI market is projected to be valued at USD 2.19 billion by the end of 2024, growing from its current valuation due to the increasing demand for automation in eDiscovery, contract review, case prediction, and compliance. This growth is supported by advancements in AI technologies and increased processing power.

The Shifting Roles and Responsibilities of In-House Legal Teams in 2024

Since the 1990s, the legal landscape in the United Kingdom has witnessed a significant transformation marked by the increasing prevalence of in-house legal counsels within corporations. This shift reflects broader trends in the legal industry and the evolving needs of modern businesses.

As organisations strive to navigate complex regulatory environments, manage risks more effectively, and drive strategic growth, the role of in-house legal teams has become indispensable. Even today, in 2024 we are witnessing 4% YoY growth in the amount of in-house counsels in the UK.

Traditionally, legal services were predominantly sourced from external law firms, which provided specialised expertise and resources on an as-needed basis. However, the dynamic nature of contemporary business operations and the imperative for timely, cost-efficient legal support have prompted many companies to develop robust in-house legal departments.

In-house legal departments offer several advantages, including deeper organisational integration, more immediate accessibility, and a better understanding of the company’s strategic goals and operational nuances.

The rise of in-house legal counsels in the UK is influenced by multiple factors:

  1. Cost Efficiency

  2. Proactive Risk Management

  3. Enhanced Agility and Responsiveness

  4. Strategic Alignment

  5. Regulatory Compliance

But sometimes, it’s easy for in-house teams to lose sight of all of the impacts they can have on the business, as they can get sucked into low-impact monotonous tasks, usually focused around contracting.

In 2024, and beyond, these monotonous tasks are going to be groundbreakingly ripped out of the hands of in-house teams as the rise of AI will enable these tasks to be done considerably faster, or even by teams who are not legally trained.

Which Industries are Hiring the Most In-House Teams?

The demand for in-house legal teams varies significantly across industries, reflecting the unique regulatory challenges and operational complexities each sector faces. Financial services, IT and software companies, oil and gas, telecommunications, and real estate are leading the way in employing in-house legal teams.

The most popular industries in order of number of legal counsels in the UK are:

  1. Financial Services (incl Banking)

  2. IT & Software Companies

  3. Oil & Gas

  4. Telco

  5. Real Estate

With the fastest growing of these being Software Companies, and the least job openings coming in Real Estate.

Why AI? Why Now? Which Providers?

The field of AI began to experience a resurgence in the 1990s, thanks in large part to the advent of machine learning, a subfield of AI that focuses on developing algorithms that enable computers to learn from and make predictions based on data.

Every time Machine learning (ML) models generate a word, or character in their response, it is done based on a probability. Up until, 2023 you could argue these models didn’t make the best guesses, but with the rise of OpenAI’s GPT-4 amongst others, we are seeing the accuracy & competency of these models rise, with the number of hallucinations (a term for when AI gets it wrong!) reduce.

With growing competitivity in this market as well the following providers to look out for when assessing Large Language Models (as of June 2024):

  • Open AI - with GPT-4o

  • Anthropic - with Claude

  • Google - with Gemini

  • Mistral AI - with Mistal

AI's Role in Legal Domains

To understand why Legal is so exciting for LLMs and AI in general it’s important to understand what these models are particularly good at. The strengths are in finding information, distilling information, suggesting alternatives and creating text/code in a fraction of the time it takes a human being.

This naturally leads to Software Development being a major use case. Not least, because of the nature of the users, the adoption will be higher. The speed at which a developer can get simple code generated is now significantly reduced, and it allows them to focus their mind on the more strategic building than the routine drafting.

The legal field is emerging as the second biggest use case for AI. According to the report "Generative AI Legal Landscape 2024," over 50% of tasks within legal occupations demonstrate potential for substitution or outright automation. This highlights the significant impact AI can have on transforming legal workflows and enhancing efficiency in the sector.

Anything on a contract that can be taught to someone within an hour or 2 - aka please review this document vs our preferred version - can easily be done by AI in 2024. Let alone the models which are coming down the line in 2025 and beyond.

Screenshot of Pocketlaw contract management software showing the definitions section of a legal agreement. The AI assistant PLAI provides a suggested rewrite for the definition of "Affiliate" to align with the Companies Act 2006.

AI's Effectiveness in Legal Tasks

The areas it specifically can replace right now with a high degree of accuracy are:

  1. Data extraction

  2. Text summarisation

  3. Text comparison

  4. Drafting emails

  5. Drafting simple clauses (with guidance)

Naturally, from Pocketlaw’s internal data, we can see how much time can be saved by using AI - and the number is up to a staggering 80% on a contract review.

How Generative AI is Transforming Legal Assistance and Training

The first thing that comes to mind when considering the use of generative AI to support legal teams is its impact on the roles of legal assistants and trainees.

In the months and years to come, many of the tasks undertaken by these roles will be easily completed to a similar accuracy by LLMs, in a fraction of the time. So it is important that we, even today, start thinking about how we reroute the expectations set on these teams. If we can expect five or ten times more output then that’s one thing, but we need to diversify the experience in training and lean into adding the human elements that LLM cannot.

With regards to the broader profession, there is no doubt that the need for human input and verification is still very much necessary. LLMs are getting stronger on seemingly a 6-monthly basis, but it is unlikely to maintain the exact trajectory of growth they are seeing at the moment. Ultimately, when it comes to risk and interpretation on high value documents, nothing will replace a human eye in 2024.

So what do we need to do differently?

We are at a pivotal moment in the future of work, especially legal work. Think back, if you are old enough, to the launch of Windows computers & email. It is the same, if not even more significant than that time.

It’s easy to look at the current solutions and say they aren’t perfect, they don’t fit in my flow of work, and the time spent training isn’t worth the output. But like all of the technological advancements this is a shortsighted view. We need to start embracing the technology now, so that we are power users as it gets stronger and stronger.

The payoff for you - doing the same amount of work in a fraction of the time, with the fraction of the resource. In the short term that means better business results with a better work-life balance. In the long term, it gives you a seat at the table as a key business stakeholder.

Conclusion

The more we lose sight of all of the strategic reasons in-house legal teams have grown over the last 30 years and the more we get stuck in monotonous contract based tasks then the more we leave ourselves susceptible to AI displacement.

The point of this statement isn’t to scare, but instead to inspire around a future where in-house teams truly become leaders on strategy and risk avoidance. A vision where the legal team is finding opportunities to generate revenue in legislation and agreements with partners, suppliers & customers. A vision where serious risks are mitigated by horizon scanning.

We are going to get there, and it’s coming sooner than you think, so it may be time to open your mindset and fully embrace the capabilities of AI in 2024.


Disclaimer:
Please note: Pocketlaw is not a substitute for an attorney or law firm. So, should you have any legal questions on the content of this page, please get in touch with a qualified legal professional.

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