Zach Abramowitz's 2024 Predictions on AI For Legal
Who needs a crystal ball when you've got ChatGPT?
Hey there, I’m Zach Abramowitz, and I’m Legally Disrupted. Mind if I cut in to your end-of-year celebrations or your return to the office with some key predictions about AI in Legal for 2024? Of course, you don’t! Let’s get disrupted!
Before I dive into my predictions for this year, let's review how we did last year. Here’s an excerpt from my post this time last year, titled “Why 2023 Will Be The Year of AI + My First Music Video.” The title alone might give you a hint that I was on the right track, but let's dig in:
As 2022 comes to a close, three issues seem to be on the mind of many lawyers: how will economic uncertainty impact their workload, their lifestyle (particularly their ability to work remote) and their tech budgets. But, here’s how generative AI could be the December surprise that changes everything: even as we experience more uncertainty in the short term, 2023 The Year of AI is going to lead to insane productivity and increased GDP.
Think about going from before Google to after Google. While legal departments are struggling short term with workload, by the end of 2023 they will start leaning on AI and see massive increases in efficiency. You’re going to feel less busy a year from now. Tech budgets for legal departments — and budgets in general — are being slashed, but use of AI by lawyers is going to increase tenfold in 2023 because some of the most powerful AI is now being made increasingly accessible and won’t require increased budgets. At the moment, some companies are rethinking their remote work policies because of the impression that people being in the office can be more efficient. But, with AI-powered increased productivity, the need to have employees in the office is going to dissipate.
This time last year, most people either hadn’t heard of ChatGPT or were scoffing at the AI hype. We’ve come a long way since then. AI was easily the biggest story in 2023 (and in the legal profession). AI was the boost the market needed to stave off economic uncertainty. I give myself a big W on this prediction. Not just big, but a flag-draped-victory-lap-while-flexing-sized W.
My more specific prediction that AI would maintain the momentum for remote work policies will continue to unfold over time. That said, I can’t really claim a full W on that one because, while many law firms have continued to be more flexible with remote work (if not in policy, then in practice), I’m not sure how much AI is the current root cause.Okay, so what am I predicting for 2024?
AI will get better at reviewing and drafting. Drafting is an obvious LLM use case and, indeed Harvey, Spellbook, CoCounsel, Draftwise, Robin and others are all in the reviewing and drafting game. The foundation models themselves are pretty good drafters too, although everyone continues to struggle with the fact that LLMs by their nature will not always give you the same answer. In that way, they act more like a human than they do a robot. However, with new advances like Q* I think we’re going to see a significant reduction in hallucinations and better performance drafting. But that said…
AI will move beyond drafting to more interesting use cases. I get why everyone is excited about drafting and reviewing documents. Lawyers spend a lot of time on these tasks, so automating them seems valuable. I continue to think that there are many more interesting use cases like research, brainstorming and problem solving that are going untapped. ESPN.com was an early obvious use case in the early days of the World Wide Web. Sports news and box scores, but now online. But, over time, as people used the Internet more, the use cases became Facebook, Stripe, Airbnb and Tesla. As lawyers begin to use GenAI tools more often (even just the plain $22 per month ChatGPT pro) they will see more ways that AI can help besides for the AI 1.0 use cases like drafting.
Mature companies (ones you might not have expected) will get into the AI game. A lot of people got caught by surprise at seeing some of the biggest firms embracing GenAI in 2023. Merging the publicly available data with what I know as a consultant for law firms, legal departments and service providers, I can tell you that you’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg. I’m not aware of any firm of over $100M in annual revenue that’s not reacting in some way to the AI revolution — and I mean investing serious resources, not just setting up task forces. In 2024, we’re going to see other key organizations in the legal ecosystem publicly embracing AI in way that makes you go “Whoa.”
#legaltech will strike back. This year, #legaltech took a beating. ChatGPT sucked all the energy out of the room. I joked that all vendors at CLOC needed to do update their exhibit floor booths was erase the C in “CLM Providers” and change it to an L for “LLM Providers.” This is why they pay me the big bucks. But, my smartassery didn’t stop there. In a post entitled “Is the AI Going to Replace Your Legaltech?” I published an updated market map.
Oh no I di’int.
I subsequently used this market map in my presentation at Legal Innovators UK, the title of which was “Is AI Eating Legaltech.”
Turns out, my snide was quite grounded in reality. Legaltech funding is down, and no one can remember the last time a legaltech company hit a unicorn value. Remember all those CLM Unicorns? Nope, me neither. The two biggest deals of 2023 were Casetext selling for nine figures and Harvey’s recent nine figure valuation — both involving big names in GenAI, and both connected deeply with OpenAI. But in 2024, #legaltech is going to hit back.
As for how that’s going to unfold, I’m going to address that as we get closer to Legalweek 2024. So, make sure you’re subscribed.
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