Law firms turn to AI as tech becomes key to client and talent retention

  • 15% of Australasian law firms plan Artificial Intelligence (AI) adoption within a year. 
  • eSigning technology emerges as the next ‘must have’ software. 
  • 72% of law firms to expand legal teams amid a talent crunch. 

As the legal industry grapples with a rapidly evolving landscape, fifteen percent of Australasian law firms plan to adopt Artificial Intelligence or large language model systems in the coming year, complementing the growing adoption of practice and document management software and electronic signing technology.  

The Changing Legal Landscape Industry Report released by legal practice management software company, Dye & Durham, and the Australasian Legal Practice Management Association, predicts technology adoption will become a vital tool in helping law firms retain clients or attract new business. 

“Adopting technology is fast becoming a competitive edge in client acquisition and retention,” said Dennis Barnhart, managing director of Dye & Durham Australia. 

“Firms that are agile, nimble and proactively embrace tech innovations are likely to see quick wins,’’ he said. 

Mr Barnhart said this would be driven by the rapid introduction and market penetration of new technology coupled with increasing client demand and expectations for both delivery and pricing for legal services. 

The survey, conducted between July 13 to August 4 2023, received responses from 128 participants across multinational law firms operating in Australia, New Zealand, and Singapore. 

It found overwhelming confidence in the industry with 72% of all firms planning to hire more lawyers in the coming year, 41% looking to onboard paralegals and 35% seeking administrative staff. 

“Whilst optimism is high on the recruitment and growth front, the reality and success of these recruitment endeavours, in a talent short market, will likely pose challenges for firms,’’ Mr Barnhart said. 

Offering flexible working arrangements was cited as the most common strategy for attracting and retaining staff (62%) in the next year, while offering individually negotiated employment arrangements would be popular among smaller firms (52%) over the next year. 

Diversity and inclusion programs were used by only 8% of firms in the previous year to attract staff, however 16% of those surveyed believed it could be a potentially effective strategy. 

The survey also highlighted a disconnect between industry perception and individual experience concerning work-life balance. While 63% felt the industry lacked a healthy work-life balance, 73% believed they had one, and 83% felt their firm offered it.  

A significant 81% credited technology for improving their work-life balance. 

Barriers to technology adoption have lessened over the past five years, with concerns about time and resources dropping from 61% in 2018 to 33% in 2023. 

Fear of change also dropped from 31% in 2022 to just 9% in 2023. 

The other barriers to adopting technology in 2023 included costs (29%), internal bureaucracy (11%) and lack of knowledge (10%). 

“Challenges are consistent across firms of all sizes, albeit at different scales,’’ Mr Barnhart said.  

Around three quarters of all respondents work at organisations that use document or practice management solutions, with more than half using e-Signing, scanning and time recording technology. 

Electronic signing technology leads the pack as the most likely technology to be adopted in the next year (57%), followed by practice management software (54%), document management software (52%) and precedent generation software (48%).  

The report found 63% of those surveyed believed technology facilitating precedent generation would be beneficial to their firms. 

Respondents to the survey were more concerned about the impact of AI or Large Language Models on Australasian legal professionals in general (47%) rather than the impact on themselves (35%). 

The report also found a disparity in the use of anti-money laundering technology between Australian and New Zealand firms, with only 4% of Australian firms using it compared to 75% in New Zealand.  

This gap is expected to close with upcoming legislative changes in Australia next year, which may force firms to upskill their knowledge. 

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