The legal industry stands at a transformative juncture, catalyzed by the rapid adoption of generative AI technologies. A recent survey by LexisNexis reveals that almost all legal executives anticipate increasing their investment in generative AI over the next five years. This surge is not just a technological shift but a strategic realignment, as law firms and corporate legal departments recalibrate their roles and offerings in a rapidly evolving digital landscape.

Generative AI is not merely a tool for efficiency; it’s a gateway to uncharted business territories. Approximately 47% of law firm leaders are actively exploring new lines of business and billable opportunities facilitated by AI. This exploration is not just about leveraging technology for existing practices but creating novel services and solutions. In parallel, a significant portion of these leaders foresee AI driving down costs, a prediction echoed by corporate legal departments, with 76% expecting cost savings.

A notable divergence emerges in the arena of billing practices. While 80% of Fortune 1000 executives anticipate a reduction in billing from external counsel due to generative AI, only a fraction of law firms have been communicated these expectations. This gap signifies a potential area of conflict and negotiation, as firms adapt to client expectations for more efficient, AI-enhanced legal services.

“Generative AI has tremendous potential to transform law firms’ business models and create new forms of value for their clients. We are working closely with customers to integrate our leading generative AI tools into their workflows to drive unprecedented efficiencies and quality for both law firms and corporate legal departments.” said Sean Fitzpatrick, CEO of LexisNexis North America, UK, and Ireland.

The survey also sheds light on hiring trends, revealing a growing demand for technologists, such as data scientists, to support AI initiatives. Notably, larger law firms (Am Law 200) are leading this charge, indicating a more aggressive approach to AI integration compared to their smaller counterparts. This trend suggests a potential widening gap between large and smaller firms in their ability to leverage AI effectively.

The readiness for AI integration is strongly correlated with legal analytics. Legal professionals using analytics are more prepared and excited about generative AI, indicating that familiarity with data-driven practices is a key factor in embracing AI technologies.

The integration of generative AI in the legal sector, as highlighted in the LexisNexis survey, represents a pivotal evolution. It’s not just about technology adoption but a fundamental shift in conceptualising and delivering legal services. The anticipation of cost reduction and the development of new business models suggest a more dynamic, efficient, and client-centric legal landscape. However, the expectation gaps between law firms and their clients, especially regarding billing practices, signal potential challenges in harmonizing technology adoption with traditional legal frameworks. The emphasis on hiring technologists indicates blending legal expertise with technological acumen, potentially leading to a new breed of legal professionals. Overall, the survey underscores a transformative period in the legal industry, driven by AI but deeply rooted in changing client expectations and market dynamics.

The legal industry is undergoing a seismic shift due to generative AI, with law firms and corporate legal departments at the forefront of this transformation. As they navigate this new terrain, the focus will be on not only integrating technology but also aligning it with business strategies, client expectations, and human resource management.

The journey ahead is complex but replete with opportunities for innovation and growth. As LexisNexis’s survey highlights, those who can effectively harness the power of generative AI will be well-positioned to redefine the legal landscape.