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Navigating the Future of Legal Industry: Insights on Legal Tech and AI

By Emily Cox

The legal industry has undergone significant transformation over the past few decades, largely driven by advancements in technology. As we look towards the future, it's clear that legal tech, including Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Generative AI (GenAI), will continue to shape the industry in unprecedented ways. Here, we delve into the past, present, and future of legal tech and what it means for the industry.

The Past: A Traditional Legal Landscape 

In the past, the legal sector was characterised by manual processes, extensive paperwork, and a reliance on precedent. Legal research was a time-consuming task that involved sifting through volumes of law books and case reports.

Document drafting, contracts, and legal correspondence were manually prepared, often leading to inefficiencies and errors. Client-lawyer interactions were primarily face-to-face, and the overall legal process was slow and costly. However, the arrival of technology led to a shift towards digitisation and automation including tools focused on document management, legal research and billing. These tools resulted in increased efficiency and accuracy, but it was the introduction of AI which marked a significant turning point in particular.

AI-powered tools began to automate routine tasks, such as document review and contract analysis, freeing up lawyers to focus on more complex, strategic tasks.

Navigating the Present: The arrival of Legal Technology and AI

AI has become a staple in the legal industry with applications ranging from predictive analytics to natural language processing. GenAI, a subset of AI, is now pushing the boundaries of what's possible. GenAI systems can generate new content, such as legal documents or contracts, based on learned patterns and data inputs. This not only speeds up the drafting process but also reduces the risk of human error.

Simultaneously, we're seeing a rise in alternative legal service providers (ALSPs) that leverage technology to deliver legal services more efficiently and cost-effectively. These providers are challenging traditional law firms and reshaping the legal services market.

There is no doubt the legal industry is in the throes of a digital revolution. Legal technology, often referred to as 'LegalTech', has transformed traditional legal processes into streamlined and efficient systems. Legal research tools, e-discovery, document automation, and practice management software have become standard in most law firms.

AI, a subset of LegalTech, has further enhanced the efficiency of the legal sector. AI-powered chatbots are now handling customer queries, while AI algorithms are used in predictive analysis to determine the potential outcome of cases. Machine learning, a component of AI, is being utilised in contract analysis, identifying patterns and anomalies faster and more accurately than human counterparts.

Envisioning the Future: The Digital Age of the Legal Sector

Looking ahead, AI and GenAI will continue to revolutionise the industry. We can expect to see more sophisticated AI tools capable of handling complex tasks, such as legal reasoning and decision-making, which will further augment the capabilities of legal professionals and potentially transform the role of lawyers.

Moreover, the future of legal services will likely be characterised by greater client-centricity. As clients become more tech-savvy, they will demand more transparent, personalised, and on-demand legal services. Law firms and legal departments will need to leverage technology to meet these evolving client expectations.

The future of the legal industry is poised for even more transformative changes. AI and machine learning will likely become more sophisticated, leading to more automation and predictive capabilities. Blockchain technology could revolutionise contract law and intellectual property rights, while virtual and augmented reality could transform courtroom proceedings.

However, this bright future is not without its challenges. One of the main hurdles is the lack of clear regulations concerning the use of AI in the legal sector. There are also concerns about data security and privacy, as well as the ethical implications of AI decision-making. Moreover, the adoption of new technologies requires significant investment and training, which can be prohibitive for smaller law firms.


The use of AI in the legal sector does have its advantages. We've already talked about increased efficiency and accuracy, cost savings and predictive analysis, but there are many more:

  • Customised Legal Services: AI can help lawyers provide more personalised services to their clients. For example, AI can analyse a client's specific circumstances and preferences to provide tailored legal advice.

  • 24/7 Availability: AI-powered chatbots can provide round-the-clock customer service, answering common queries and providing information to clients at any time.

  • Enhanced Decision Making: AI can analyse vast amounts of data to provide insights and trends that can help lawyers make more informed decisions.

  • Risk Management: AI can help identify potential legal risks and issues before they become problems. This can help organisations mitigate risks and ensure compliance with legal regulations.

  • Knowledge Management: AI can help law firms manage and utilise their vast amounts of knowledge and information more effectively.

  • Innovation: The use of AI can drive innovation in legal services, leading to the development of new business models and services.

The benefits of LegalTech and AI are undeniable.


While AI offers numerous benefits, it also presents several challenges. :

AI systems often rely on large amounts of data, which can include sensitive or personal information. Ensuring this data is collected, stored, and processed in a secure and privacy-compliant manner is a significant challenge. There are also ethical concerns - AI systems can potentially be used for surveillance, discrimination, or in ways that infringe upon individual rights. AI systems also learn from data, and if that data is biased, the AI system's decisions can also be biased which can lead to unfair or discriminatory outcomes. Other potential risks include:

  • Transparency and Explainability: AI algorithms, particularly those using machine learning, can be complex and difficult to understand. This lack of transparency, often referred to as the "black box" problem, can make it difficult to explain how the AI arrived at a particular decision.

  • Job Displacement: There are concerns that AI could automate tasks currently performed by humans, leading to job displacement. While AI can create new jobs, it can also render some roles obsolete.

  • Dependence on Technology: Over-reliance on AI can lead to a lack of human oversight and the loss of essential skills. It's important to maintain a balance between AI automation and human involvement.

  • Regulatory Challenges: The rapid pace of AI development can outstrip existing legal and regulatory frameworks, leading to a gap between what AI can do and what the law allows.

  • Implementation Costs: While AI can lead to cost savings in the long run, the initial costs of implementing AI (including purchasing or developing the technology, integrating it with existing systems, and training staff) can be high.

  • Quality of Data: AI systems are only as good as the data they are trained on. Poor quality or inaccurate data can lead to incorrect or unreliable outcomes.

  • Skills Gap: There is a growing demand for AI specialists who can develop and maintain AI systems. However, there is currently a shortage of these skills in the job market, which can make it difficult for organisations to implement and leverage AI effectively

In conclusion, the legal sector, in the digital age, is a vibrant, evolving landscape. Legal technology and AI have already made significant strides in transforming the industry, and their potential for future innovation is immense. However, for this potential to be fully realised, the challenges they present must be addressed through regulatory frameworks, ethical guidelines, and ongoing investment in training and development. The future of the legal industry depends on how well it can adapt and evolve with these technological advancements.

Added note

On December 8, 2023, European institutions reached provisional political agreement on the AI Act, marking a global first in establishing comprehensive legislation on artificial intelligence. Although the final text is yet to be confirmed, the drafting process is underway and the law is expected to be formally adopted by the Parliament and Council as EU law in early 2024. As a pioneering piece of legislation, the AI Act is anticipated to set a benchmark for AI regulations globally.

The AI Act categorises AI systems based on their potential risks and societal impact, dividing them into limited risk and high-risk systems, while prohibiting certain AI systems. It also encourages the establishment of "regulatory sandboxes" and "real-world testing" by national authorities to nurture innovative AI before market introduction.

Key provisions of the AI Act include:

• Established protections for general-purpose artificial intelligence

• Restrictions on the use of biometric identification systems by law enforcement

• Prohibitions on social scoring and AI that manipulates or exploits user vulnerabilities

• The right for consumers to file complaints and receive comprehensive explanations

• Penalties ranging from 35 million euros or 7% of global turnover to 7.5 million or 1.5% of turnover.


About the Author

Emily Cox is an employment associate & legal technologist at Womble Bond Dickinson. She works within the Legal Solutions Centre that sits within WBD Advance WBD Advance | Smart Legal Solutions | Womble Bond Dickinson. Her role encompasses assisting with legal operations, innovation and knowledge management. #EmilyCox #legaltech #AI #GenAI #transformation #legalindustry #innovation


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