Predictions are tough. Palm readers get them wrong all the time because, as a forecasting tool, using an upturned hand instead of objective data is a bona fide loser. That’s why we’re looking at past and current industry trends to understand changes bubbling up in four sectors most likely to create an impact in 2024: system integrations, cybersecurity, data, and artificial intelligence.
Great business decisions don’t just happen because Zeus throws down a thunderbolt at some random CEO. On the contrary, good business decisions are made by careful study of data that reflects what’s happening within a business and its customers. But it can be tough to study vendor and customer data collectively, because oftentimes that kind of data lives in separate silos.
That’s why system integrations will be a rising star in 2024—they break down silos and unify data held by vendors and customers into a single source of truth.
As a litigation support service provider, you can help build that single source of truth for your law firm customers to use; enabling them to access information in real time, streamline operational tasks, and reduce costs.
A closer look at the value these types of integrations provide helps explain their popularity:
Value to law firms: Real-time data exchange between the law firm and its vendor can inform the law firm’s billing and accounting operations. Since the information comes directly from the vendor it will have a high degree of accuracy and reduce the potential for erroneous data to creep into calculations.
Value to vendors: The clarity and convenience of the data it delivers to the law firm adds value to its relationship with the firm. Providing this value-added service positions the vendor as a strategic partner that would be difficult to replace.
Sharing data also provides a sure way to put an end to the centuries-old practice of guesstimating. That alone should make system integrations across the legal industry boom in 2024.
Real world value
Let’s take a look at how system integrations work in the real world through the example of reconciliation.
Reconciliation is the process law firms use to gather expenses and receipts at the end of a legal matter. Reconciliation can be tedious, labor intensive, and rack up hours of costly overhead. Furthermore, if information is missing from the reconciliation process, inaccuracies will send the process and profits off the rails.
Litigation support service providers can help their law firm customers solve that problem by facilitating a system integration between their businesses. Here’s how it works:
- Every expense the litigation support service provider charges to the law firm for a particular matter is captured by the provider.
- The provider pushes those charges instantly into the law firm’s system.
- The law firm uses the information to complete its expense reconciliation.
That’s just one example of how integrations make magic in the real world. Additional benefits include:
|Connected systems work together efficiently. Businesses can reduce or eliminate certain tasks performed electronically as well as the use of paper documents.
|Labor costs can be lowered by speeding up tasks. Data discrepancies are also decreased, making reporting more accurate.
|Faster, smoother flow of information minimizes bottlenecks. An unbroken data chain helps improve communication and enhances operational integrity.
|Vendors and their law firm clients can keep up with operational demands as the number of end users grows. No extra equipment or staffing needed.
If you’re on the fence about whether a system integration is right for you, ask this simple question: Would you wear shoes that don’t match?
Cybersecurity Will Be a Superpower
Organizations that operate in the legal industry are sitting ducks for cyberattacks. That applies to litigation support service businesses, law firms, and the courts. Stakeholders all across the legal industry will be keen to protect data in their care throughout 2024 and beyond.
Nowhere will this be more important than among the courts.
In response to the attack, Kansas courts were forced to accept fax filings and paper filings, as well as discontinue electronic payment acceptance for more than a week. The attack set off a domino effect that shut down systems that attorneys, businesses, and the public use to conduct court business or access court records.
It’s important for litigation support service providers to have a clear picture of how these attacks are evolving and how they impact stakeholders throughout the legal industry. The fact that a Kansas court was successfully breached demonstrates that, more than ever, the security measures you use must be vigilantly maintained.
Law Firm Data Held for Ransom
Law firms weren’t always juicy targets for cybercriminals. But as firms of every size accumulate more data, so grows the temptation for cyber criminals to launch ransomware attacks. Three statistics underscore this trend:
- In 2023 three of the top 50 law firms were breached by just one group of ransomware hackers.
- Currently one of every 40 cyberattacks targets a law firm or insurance company.
- 27% of law firms have suffered a security breach.
The unwanted attention cybercriminals give to law firms has helped push the legal sector to become the fourth most popular hacking target—behind service, manufacturing, and finance.
What makes them so attractive?
The private messages law firm partners exchange are a prime temptation. These emails may contain information about all sorts of deals and ideas; including pending transactions that involve government agencies or public companies.
The value hackers find in these messages is underscored by a case in which a trio of offshore cybercriminals hacked their way into a law firm that was handling mergers and acquisitions for computer chip manufacturer, Intel.
After gaining entry, the hackers discovered the takeover price that Intel was planning to pay for a rival chip manufacturer. The hackers purchased 210,000 shares in that rival (Altera) and reportedly pocketed a $1.4 million profit for themselves.
Data nuggets about celebrities are popular, too.
Celebrity law firm Grubman Shire Meiselas & Sacks learned this the hard way when hackers found and leaked information about one of the firm’s marquee clients: Lady Gaga. The hackers threatened a subsequent information release about other big-name celebrities unless the firm paid a $42 million ransom.
Even if a law firm doesn’t pay a dime of ransom the negative publicity these incidents generate can hobble its reputation.
Exploits such as these demonstrate why law firms have a heightened sensitivity to cybersecurity. Litigation support service providers, as a key vendor to law firms, must be prepared to protect the data their law firm customers have entrusted them with and maintain its security over the long haul.
Legal Industry Vendors Are at Risk
Businesses that provide vendor services to the legal industry are not immune from cyberattacks. Litigation support service businesses, for example, handle an immense volume of data that is personal and confidential, so it’s no surprise they are a magnet for bad actors.
One such attack was leveled against e-litigation service supplier Law In Order in 2020 by the hacker group, NetWalker. The group threatened to push out information from Law In Order’s internal system to the dark web if a ransom was not paid.
The attack hammered Law In Order’s productivity. It caused the business to limit access to segments of its network and halted many of its operations. Furthermore, Law In Order was saddled with the expense of engaging cyber security advisors to manage a response.
No business wants to hand over a fortune in ransom or tell its customers their data was hacked. Litigation support service businesses can reduce their own risk for this kind of misfortune and help their customers avoid similar scenarios by making it a priority to invest in cybersecurity technologies.
Big Data for Better Business
Virtually everyone working in the legal industry notices one thing: Data is coming at you in greater variety, at greater volume, with greater velocity.
The age of “big data” is here and it’s going to be important in a big way—especially among law firms because it can:
- Identify patterns in past matters by using algorithms.
- Determine whether a case is worth taking in a matter of minutes.
- Ease the load for research and electronic discovery.
Big data stands to deliver game-changing benefits to litigation support service providers in 2024 as well. That’s because these immense swaths of information can be used strategically as competitive differentiators.
For example, a provider may use its data to conduct business reviews with clients. These encounters create opportunities for the vendor to present smart, data-based insights to their clients about:
- eFiling acceptance rates.
- Service of process success.
- Proof of service turnaround times.
- Service of process orders by pricing zone and more.
Electronic payments are another big-data generator for the legal industry that has strategic potential. Here’s a statistic to back up that prediction:
The B2B digital payment market size is projected to explode from $4.3 billion in 2023 to $8.5 billion in 2028.”
That huge leap in online payments will generate huge data. Those vast stores of electronic payment data can provide visibility into a customer’s payment status and useful financial metrics.
Since electronic payment data can’t be accidentally thrown into the washing machine or trash can, that data will always be around to create a reliable and accurate audit trail.
Doomsday for the Old Way
There’s no doubt that data will be a hot topic in the legal industry in 2024. The question is, “Why?”
The answer is simple. More businesses in the legal industry will finally abandon paper-based processes and on-premises IT systems in favor of cloud computing.
One reason: It’s so darn fast and easy to search for a document on the cloud compared to rifling through stacks of paper. Another reason is that moving data to the cloud and giving up the expense of buying pricey computer hardware, managing that hardware, and keeping it updated is a money-saver.
Need one more reason to get cozy with cloud-based data in 2024? Think “portability”.
Data that’s always within reach will be a big deal among 2024’s hybrid-remote workforce. Do your work, manage your business, and have access to everything everyone else on the team has whether you work downtown or in Timbuktu.
If it’s sounding like 2024 is the year when data and integration steal the hearts and minds of the legal industry, you’re probably right. It’s a good omen for litigation support service providers who can use their technology platform to help law firm customers break away from paper-based work.
And, for law firms that have already gone digital, this trend offers litigation support service providers an opportunity to shine as a strategic partner; helping firms to expand task automations and implement integrations that achieve maximum efficiency.
Artificial Intelligence is Changing the Game
Artificial intelligence (AI) is reshaping how the legal industry works. Since legal professionals are litigation support service providers’ core customers, it’s critical for providers to understand how AI tools are being used in law offices today.
Here are three areas where AI-enabled technologies are being used by legal professionals—and profoundly impacting the industry—that merit a closer look.
Area #1: Legal Research
Law firms can use AI to save thousands of research hours with the push of a button. There are legal analytics platforms available right now that can analyze millions of federal and state court cases in an instant. These platforms offer data about judges, parties involved in a legal matter, law firms, and actual case outcomes in a matter of seconds.
Want to know a judge’s career rulings on a particular type of case? AI can tell you. Wondering whether your evidence is likely to be admitted? AI has the answer. Trying to figure out how opposing counsel has performed in litigation historically? An AI tool can tell you.
As a time-saver in formulating trial strategy, today’s AI is nearly indispensable. The efficiency with which these tools crunch volumes of information also hints at the value big data has to offer the legal industry.
Area #2: Contract Review
Most contracts are word-heavy juggernauts that require expansive blocks of time to review. That doesn’t have to be the case for law firms that use AI-based contract review tools. These applications handle line-by-line reading that chews up countless human hours without tiring, losing focus, or taking a lunch break.
Some of the tasks AI takes on include finding trouble spots in verbiage, suggesting changes, or making changes directly to the document. AI tools can also draft and analyze contracts, collect data from old contracts, handle electronic signing, and work in multiple languages.
What’s not to love about a multi-lingual contract specialist who never takes time off and stays with the firm forever?
Area #3: eDiscovery
Documents such as emails, databases, instant messaging chats, CAD/CAM files, image files, and more may all be part of legal eDiscovery. Managing this “big data” is a big task and AI-powered eDiscovery tools are built to handle it.
Some of the ways AI tools make these tasks easier include collecting and producing electronically stored information and holding it for use in a legal matter.
AI-driven search engines can also save valuable time for eDiscovery. They can execute searches on millions of database records in a matter of seconds, as well as identify and preserve relevant content indexed for search. Likewise, AI tools can conduct first-pass reviews at the push of a button, and reportedly save as much as 55% in contract review costs.
Tools for Success
As the legal industry continues to adopt AI technologies, it’s important for litigation support service providers to be aware that some legal professionals fear AI will take their jobs.
It’s easy to understand that concern. However, decades after computers first began to show up in law offices, technology has hardly caused humans to disappear from cubicles. It is likely we will see the same result with AI, which is to say legal professionals who use AI tools will enjoy greater career success and longevity than those who ignore them.
Expect the Unexpected
Predicting the future can be fraught. Remember that time we outsmarted Y2K? Then eight years later we were blindsided by the mortgage meltdown? Fact is, sometimes the pundits see only what they want to see or just plain get it wrong.
But data never lies and there’s always a statistic willing to tell you like it is. The predictions we’ve shared here are based on data we see in our own operations and across the market. Use them to help steer your decisions for the year ahead to avoid potholes and refine your strategic moves.
It’s possible not every forecast will hit the bullseye in 2024, but we’re confident they’ll help any business operating in the legal industry avoid a “Dewey Defeats Truman” moment.